Longtime Camden Spanish Teacher Fulfills Dream of Earning Master’s Degree at Rutgers–Camden

By Tom McLaughlin

Thinking back to her earliest days as a teacher, Nidza Bruno has to laugh. You could say that she was wise beyond her years.

“I was the young girl in the neighborhood helping everyone with their homework,” says the graduating Rutgers University–Camden student. “And when it was time to take a break, we’d go on a field trip and watch cartoons.”

Bruno credits the master of arts in teaching Spanish program for helping her to stay hip to new technologies and teaching approaches.

Since those earliest days, continues the Bellmawr resident, her desire to teach has always been coupled with her insatiable appetite to learn.

“Because that’s what a teacher does – you want to know as much as possible and share what you know with others,” says Bruno, a longtime Spanish teacher at Dr. Charles E. Brimm Medical Arts High School in Camden.

The lifelong learner and teacher will now celebrate her enduring, hand-in-hand pursuits as she graduates from Rutgers-Camden on May 17 with a master of arts in teaching Spanish degree.

Bruno credits the master’s program for helping her to stay hip to new technologies and teaching approaches in order to deliver the subject matter and engage her students more effectively.

Today, while you may not find her students watching cartoons, Bruno regularly utilizes multimedia tools to teach Spanish literacy and comprehension – making it “more interesting, more realistic” – as well as video games to introduce grammar and vocabulary, and group chat apps to stay connected with her students.

“For someone like me who has been teaching for so long, it’s important to keep adjusting and adapting to these new styles of teaching,” says Bruno. “I could have all of the knowledge in the world, but if I don’t have all the tools or the right approach, it’s not going to mean anything to my students.”

Indeed, says Bruno, things have changed a great deal since she began teaching Spanish in her native Guaynabo, Puerto Rico in 1982, explaining that it was typical for students to read a book and be prepared to discuss the material in class.

Bruno says her sons would often tell her that she was the best teacher they have ever had.

In 1994, Bruno relocated to Camden with her husband, Agustin, and their young sons, Agustin, Otoniel, Angel, and Eduardo. Two years later, she started teaching Spanish as a foreign language on the elementary school level before transferring to the high school level shortly thereafter.

As she adjusted to her new city, recalls Bruno, Rutgers–Camden became a home away from home. She was drawn to the vitality of the campus as she and her young sons strolled the grounds and paused to sit on the benches. All the while, she adds, she held out hope of one day returning to school – hopefully at Rutgers–Camden – and earning a master’s degree.

“A university like Rutgers–Camden has that feeling that, no matter where you are, the students are alive. I could relate to that,” says Bruno, who remembers seeing a blue jay for the first time on campus. “I am very connected to this place; it’s magic.”

In 2012, her son, Agustin, an Army Airborne veteran of the Iraq War, earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Rutgers–Camden. At his encouragement, the two then began the master’s program together.

“My sons would tell me that I could – and I should – do this; that I was the best teacher they have ever had,” says Bruno, who adds that, in 2009, Angel graduated from Rutgers–Camden with a bachelor’s degree in biology and Otoniel earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Rutgers–New Brunswick.

With the help and support of her husband, says Bruno, Rutgers–Camden was “my time to grow, to enjoy, and to do what I wanted to do for my knowledge and my spirit.” Among her most treasured experiences, she had the opportunity to study Spanish at the University of Salamanca in Spain, one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the world.

“I couldn’t help but think of the many great writers who had attended this university,” she says. “It was like walking on clouds.”

Ready as ever to share what she knows, Bruno’s students continue to benefit from her boundless energy and her adroit ability to connect with them on their level.

“I hope that I am an effective teacher, but I know that I am a very loved teacher,” she says.

Although she is now graduating, the mother, grandmother, wife, and seasoned teacher – her personal greatest measures of success – is quick to point out that her days as a student are far from over.

“I am going to be a teacher and a student forever,” she says, noting that it won’t be long before she enrolls in more classes. “I will never stop learning.”

Posted in: Student Achievement

Comments are closed.