Mendoza’s journey from engineer to math teacher is inspiring, award-winning

March 13, 2014

Obed Mendoza 2-edited

Lisle, Illinois ~ Engineer. Missionary. Construction worker. Customer service representative. Church leader and chaplain. Tutor.

Obed Mendoza did a little of everything before discovering what he truly wanted to do – teach.

“I was working as a corporate chaplain with Market Place Ministries when I felt as though I was missing the use of something I enjoyed a great deal – my skills in physics and mathematics,” said Mendoza, who earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Instituto Politecnico Nacional Mexico (National Polytechnic Institute) in 1998 but disengaged from any engineering-related work when he moved to the United States in 2001.

“When I had the opportunity to be a math tutor at East Aurora High School in 2004, I began to see how my passion for mathematics and community service was coming together in a bigger way,” the Mexico City native said.

There was one problem, however. Although he completed the necessary steps to work as a temporary bilingual teacher, Mendoza lacked the Illinois State Board of Education certification to teach full time. He began searching for licensure programs in the area.

“I had the opportunity to meet with (Benedictine University Alternative Licensure Program director) John Zigmond,” Mendoza said. “As he described the program they provided, I knew this was going to be the best program for me because it would incorporate my background in science and math.”

Mendoza completed Benedictine’s program, which includes two months of intensive classroom work during the summer and a year of supervised classroom teaching, in 2011. Today, he is a full-time mathematics teacher and part-time soccer coach at East Aurora High School.

“I have been able to combine in teaching my call to serve the community, my knowledge and passion about math and science, and in the specific place where I teach, the opportunity to understand and serve the Latino community,” he said.

Mendoza’s remarkable journey from aeronautical engineer in his native Mexico to math teacher in the heavily-bilingual community at East Aurora did not go unnoticed. He was recently named as a recipient of a $1,000 National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) conference scholarship.

No more than three such awards are presented annually. Mendoza, the second recipient from Benedictine since 2011, will receive his award on Friday, March 14 at the NAAC annual conference in Orlando, Fla. He will also receive a complimentary registration to the conference, up to $500 to offset travel expenses and a complimentary one-year membership in NAAC.

Mendoza said the family- and work-friendly summer schedule offered by Benedictine and the mentoring throughout the yearlong teaching internship were critical to his success.

“The on-going mentoring was something I highly benefitted from and appreciated,” he said. “And if not for this type of schedule setup, my journey toward a teaching certification would have been so much more difficult.”

Mendoza teaches five classes per day at East Aurora, including Academy of Math – a computer-based class that focuses on basic operations and number sense for at-risk ninth graders – and Algebra 2 for 11th graders.

“Every day is different and every day I have different learning objectives for my students,” he said. “At the same time, every one of my students is also unique and I cannot expect only one thing in general from them. Nevertheless, I hope that whatever we share inside the classroom makes them more curious about the world in which they live.”

Mendoza also has advice for others who have a passion to teach but cannot find a program that will help them make the transition quickly and effectively.

"If someone has an authentic passion to teach, Benedictine has one of the best programs to put that passion to work for them and the community,” he said. “I would also recommend that they get involved as soon as possible. The faster they decide to begin, the faster they will be in the teaching market and ready to serve their community.”

For more information about the Alternative Licensure Program in Science and Mathematics at Benedictine University, contact John Zigmond, Ed.D., program director, at (630) 829-1364 or


Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2001-2011 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.

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