The adventures continue for Zulmy Galindo

New AVID teacher/department head crosses boundaries in classroom and beyond


Bella Russo

New teacher Zulmy Galindo helps senior AVID president Melissa Marquez revise her college essay applications in the senior AVID class. Photo by Bella Russo.

Bella Russo, staff reporter

Growing up as an immigrant in California, college once seemed like a very distant possibility to Zulmy Galindo. Born and raised in Guatemala until age 7, she never really saw herself as the kind of person who would go; none of her family was talking about it, and the only kids at school who did didn’t look like her. Reluctantly, she applied to a school and got in. It took some convincing from a member of her community, but she attended Missouri State that fall.

“I had to literally be convinced by this mentor in the community that I was going to go, and that it was the most selfless thing I could do to go.” Galindo said. “It wasn’t about me; it was about the fact that I had a sibling and other people behind me and that I needed to go to basically open that door.”

Now the newest addition to the AVID department, Zulmy Galindo helps her students to open those same doors that she once did as a first generation college student and someone from a low-socioeconomic background.

“It’s nice to see myself in them, and it’s nice to look like them because I feel like I can set an example and that I can open up their minds a little bit and expose them to the bigger possibility,” Galindo said. 

It’s nice to see myself in them, and it’s nice to look like them because I feel like I can set an example and that I can open up their minds a little bit and expose them to the bigger possibility.

— Zulmy Galindo

Her main goal is to continue to open up doors for all members of the McCallum community, whether it be from making sure her seniors have applied to at least four colleges before the end of September, or just making sure they have someone at the school who they know cares about them.

Galindo isn’t just opening doors in her AVID classroom. After observing an under-representation of AVID students and minority populations in McCallum organizations like student council and enrolled in AP courses, she has made it a priority to begin better integrating McCallum populations.

“It’s not because the sponsors or because people aren’t welcoming; it’s because we have a lot of people of color at our school that feel intimidated by being the only person of color in a specific room,” Galindo said. “So they miss out on all of these opportunities. They don’t sign up for the AP courses that they need to be taking; they don’t take the risks or they’re not involved at the level they want to because they don’t see themselves represented.”

By sharing her own experiences as a person of color in the workplace, she hopes to build up that character through her interactions with her students, paying attention to them, and providing them with a place to open up.

“With me, it’s a family. It’s a group dynamic.” Galindo said. “I don’t know if they are able to be themselves in their other classes, and in certain examples, I know that is not the case.”

Before she taught AVID, Galindo was a middle school English teacher. Restricted by the pressure of making sure her students passed all of their standardized tests, Galindo found that she wasn’t doing what she really wanted to do: build strong relationships with her students and to give them a place where they could express themselves freely and creatively.

“I’ve always wanted to teach a class that was very relationship-based.” Galindo said. “Obviously that’s the point of teaching any subject, to be a mentor to your students, to be able to make a huge difference, but working in an English class in a Title I school doesn’t allow the time for that”

That’s when she discovered the AVID program at her school. When a position opened up in the program, a teacher introduced her to the class, and she discovered that the AVID curriculum fit exactly what she was looking for.

“Its a position where you really have to care about your kiddos number one,” Galindo said. “And that relationship builds everything else, and you build your curriculum around that. I love that model.”

For Galindo, the biggest difference between McCallum and her middle-school experience is the excitement and pride the student and staff body holds for their school.

“It(s) pretty awesome to be in the realm of all this school spirit,” Galindo said. “Eeveryone is so prideful of being at McCallum, and it shows. The teachers are super excited about being here and the students have so much pride about their school. It’s been really, really good; everyone has been really welcoming.”

Zulmy Galindo and her fiance climb the “Edge of Time” formation together the morning of their wedding.

When Galindo isn’t teaching she enjoys many active pastimes, including coming up with vegan recipes with her husband, biking and, above all, rock climbing. Galindo met her husband while rock climbing, so it was fitting that when the two got married this summer, they spent the morning of their wedding climbing the iconic Colorado formation, “Edge of Time,” in their wedding attire.

The newlyweds spent their honeymoon climbing and exploring in Squamish, British Columbia. Galindo has also climbed in Mexico and Italy.

“Anywhere we go that’s our thing,” Galindo said, “Climb the most amazing heights and enjoy the view.”

Galindo’s adventures have taken her to Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and all around Latin America. One spring she took a one-way plane ticket to South America on a trip for a couple of weeks and ended up spending the next nine months backpacking solo, from Costa Rica to the Patagonias and everywhere in between.

“The backpacking trip to South America when I was in my mid 20’s was super powerful because it allowed me to figure out who I was.” Galindo said. “It’s amazing to be able to get lost by yourself because a lot of times you are surrounded by your friends, and it’s almost a security blanket. Everything and everyone around you in a way defines you, but when you get out of that, you figure out who you are, and you define yourself.”

Galindo hopes to bring her passion for the outdoors into her AVID class as well. One of rock climbing’s advantages, Galindo said, is it’s an even playing field. Anyone can climb an objective or complete a hike, no matter their gender or background. By engaging in these activities together, students can forge relationships and confidence that gets carried back into the classroom and can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“It’s pretty amazing, and it’s empowering to be able to get to the tops of these peaks and realize that you didn’t have a guide to take you up there,” Galindo said. “You set everything up yourself, and it was your strength and your mentality that got you there.”

It’s pretty amazing, and it’s empowering to be able to get to the tops of these peaks and realize that you didn’t have a guide to take you up there: you set everything up yourself, and it was your strength and your mentality that got you there

— Zulmy Galindo

Through all of this, Galindo’s main goal is clear: to help her students achieve their goals. Whether supporting them inside the classroom or cheering them on mountainside, she hopes to help them accomplish the things that they want for themselves, just like she did.

“Now I’m 33 years old and I’ve graduated from college and I rock climb and I travel and I do all these things,” Galindo said. “By no means am I like the example, but I am very happy with my life. I can stand there and say, ‘No, you absolutely can do what you want to do, you just have to fight for it.’”