Just a Number

By: Graduate Studies on

Oscar SalazarAt only 20  years old, Oscar Salazar is not only the youngest student in his graduating class, he is also the youngest ever to graduate from the Teacher Education master’s program at the University of Central Florida, and one of the four youngest to complete any graduate program at the university. With the average age of graduate students in UCF’s College of Education and Human Performance being 34, Salazar might seem to be at a disadvantage in terms of gaining the respect of his peers or future students. But to Salazar, “age really is just a number… be confident and friendly; it doesn’t matter how old you are – people will pay attention as long as they can see that you’re being genuine.” He believes in learning from mistakes, his own as well as others, and is constantly working to be the best person he can be.

Salazar has followed his own advice, learning and growing throughout his time at UCF. Several professors played key roles in this process, including Dr. Fon Gordon who challenged his writing abilities and critical thinking skills. “I had her my second semester at UCF at the age of 17, I might’ve been a bit too overconfident for my own good,” Salazar laughs. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a ‘B’ in my life! But after I passed her class I had a much better grasp on my abilities and limitations; she taught me how to think independently and to be able to express my ideas in an academic manner.”

During his graduate studies, Dr. William Russell was a source of inspiration and support as Salazar prepared to take his first teaching job. “I had just turned 20 years old and I was going to be in charge of 18 and 17 year olds… I was terrified,” he remembers. Dr. Russell’s advice was simple but had a powerful impact: Dress nicely, be confident, and be yourself. “For some reason, I truly believed in myself after that quick talk, and I went on to have a great experience with the seniors. Dr. Russell is the professor I feel I could always go back to for help at any point of my career.”

Salazar appreciates the many opportunities he has had during his time at UCF, first earning a bachelor’s degree in History and now an Master of Arts in Teaching, Social Science Education track. He explains, “I always knew I wanted to be in a career where I could help people and make an impact. It really came down to social work and teaching; I think the deciding factor was the ability to create a fun and safe classroom for students of all different backgrounds.”

Now that he has completed his degree, Salazar plans to substitute teach while looking for opportunities to teach abroad, ideally in Spain or Australia. He is excited and open to whatever life has to offer next. “I find that the more you go out of your way to help and meet people, the more paths will open up for you.”

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