Featured Students

Featured Student: Zuleyka Valdes


  • Name: Zuleyka Valdes
  • Year: Senior
  • Major: Double Major, Middle School Math Education and Spanish
  • Hometown: Puerto Rico
  • Quirky Fact: I play piano, guitar and I sing
  • Favorite thing to get (food/drink) on campus: chicken quesadilla from the T-room
  • Best movie you’ve seen recently: The Breakfast Club
  • Favorite movie: Harry Potter Series
  • Best book you’ve read recently: 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  • Favorite book: Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  • What you like to do on campus: go to Hart café to study and go play volleyball at the Wellness Center



Tell us about yourself:
I am a senior at Murray State, and I am a middle school math education major and a Spanish major. I’m from Puerto Rico; my entire family is over there, except for my mom and me in Kentucky. I speak Spanish and English. I was raised throughout the United States mostly. I moved to the Bronx in New York City when I was five with my parents, and then we moved to Kentucky after 9/11. We moved around a lot in Kentucky. My parents are both Spanish teachers; that’s why I got inspired to teach, too. I play piano and guitar, and I like to sing. If I weren’t teaching, I would love to do something with music, but I try to do music and teaching at the same time, somehow.
What made you come to Murray State?
I came to visit and the moment I came to visit, I was offered a full ride, which is one of the biggest reasons I came. I’m four hours away from my hometown. But I love Murray State and the campus is beautiful; I fell in love with the campus.

Who have you enjoyed working with?
Professor Tanya Romero-Gonzalez—she has helped me a lot with my double major. She’s the reason that I started doing it. While I’ve been doing it, she’s helped me a lot through it and she’s been there for me. She’s been guiding me every step of the way and even created a summer course just for me so that I could get all the credits that I need. She’s just been a rock, and I thank her so much; she’s been really great with me.

Who inspires you in life?
My parents inspire me. Especially my dad, who passed away two years ago. I was 19 years old and going through my sophomore year of college. It was the hardest experience I’ve ever been through in my life. I think about him every day, and now everything I do, I do it to keep making him proud of me. Actually the double major was always his idea and I remember saying I would never do it, but he always said it would be a great opportunity. After he passed away, I decided to do the double major. My mother also inspires me because of my dad passing. They were together 24 hours a day, they taught together, and I can’t imagine everything she went through during his passing. She was in the hospital every day and night with him for 39 days. She has been the most positive and strongest person ever. Even though she’s by herself now, she is just always fighting on, and happy. She is just my inspiration to be like they were.

What made you choose the major you did?
Well I was a variety of majors for a while. I was a psychology major for a little while at first, and then I had a music minor. I just bounced around everywhere until I discovered my calling as a teacher. I always told myself I was never going to be teacher and now I am, and I love it. I guess I just chose it because I decided to see if I liked it, my parents were teachers, and I kind of knew a little about it already from being a teacher’s kid. Then it was a completely different world. I love middle schoolers; they are the best. I just feel inspired now to just keep helping and making an impact in students’ lives. I love working with urban schools—that’s my favorite type. I just like to motivate those students because I feel a lot of these kids aren’t put to high expectations and I just want to be able to make a difference in someone’s life and impact them in some way.

Work/projects related to your major?
Well, I did a Fun with Languages program that was a Spanish Club. This was around two years ago. I was teaching once a week for ten weeks with elementary kids at East Calloway Elementary. That was my first experience teaching, and it was really cool; the kids were really funny, and I even brought my guitar one time to sing the alphabet song with them and they loved it. That’s one way I found to incorporate my love of music with the Spanish world. It was great for me and was a great learning experience for my first time ever teaching. Now I’m actually tutoring for a kid in high school, and I’ve been doing that the last couple of weeks. With a teaching major you are always involved somehow either in practicum or with tutoring. I have always been involved with school stuff. Also I am a leader of Sueño Latino, which is an organization for Hispanic-Latino students on campus; it’s under the office of Multicultural Affairs. The club involves a group of Hispanic students that just try to do things with each other and study together. Around two weeks ago we had a big event called Sabor Latino where there was food, music, and presentations. I sang in it, and we had around 8 different countries represented in it. It’s pretty cool; I’ve been involved in it for two years now and it’s one of my biggest things that I enjoy to do.

Recent awards/ honors?
Well this, this is an honor for me. I was on the Dean’s List a couple times. I’m a MERR scholar, which is a part of the Minority Education Scholarship, and a Marvin Mill Full Scholar. Also, I have an academic achievement award from the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Future plans:
I will graduate in May, and I hope to find a job. I want to go to a city, maybe Lexington, Kentucky. I used to live close to there, and I liked it. But anywhere really that I can go, I will go. My goal is to teach in an urban school. I’ll probably complete two years of teaching for now, then start my Master’s. A big goal for my Master’s is to perhaps study abroad somewhere in Europe, probably Spain. It’s my dream to go there. I couldn’t study abroad in my Bachelors. So far that’s the plan of life.



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