Entering his 22nd year of teaching at NSU University School, Upper School Physics and Calculus Teacher Dr. Rafael Arechabaleta is no stranger to the USchool community. Drawn by the uniqueness of our school, Dr. Arechabaleta joined the USchool team early in his teaching career shortly after moving to the United States from Cuba. He has made significant contributions to our school over the years and has had a lasting impact in the lives of his students through his instructional approach and sense of humor, helping create a comfortable learning environment.
Throughout his career, Dr. Arechabaleta has been recognized as an exceptional educator, earning numerous awards honoring him for his commitment to students. He was selected as the recipient of Northwestern University’s Distinguished Secondary School Teacher Award, the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and the MIT Inspirational Teacher Award.
Q&A with Dr. Arechabaleta:
What led you to pursue a career in teaching?
I believe education provides students the latitude to form their own opinions – to challenge themselves and society. Having been educated in Cuba under a communist regime where free thought was discouraged and educational resources were limited, I truly appreciate educational freedom and strive to provide my students the opportunity to design their own curriculum. My first teaching opportunity arose at Guantanamo Bay where I volunteered to teach fellow refugees real-world skills to prepare them for a more prosperous life in the United States. Since then, my passion for education has burgeoned. My unique heritage and life experiences have cultivated my educational pedagogy and skillset. I view the educational field as one of the noblest professions in the world, and I am fortunate to be teaching physics and calculus at different levels in the U.S. despite my strong Cuban-Russian accent.
Describe your teaching style.
Each student is a unique individual who needs a passionate teacher to develop a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment in which the student can grow individually. My passion is to help students meet their highest potential in the areas of science and math while also ensuring they develop essential social skills. I believe that my experiences as a student helped mold me into the educator I am today.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The students, faculty, administrators, and families here at USchool are what I enjoy most. Coming to a new country and finding a family in the workplace is a blessing.
What moment at NSU University School stands out as the most memorable?
My most memorable moments over the past 22 years include graduation ceremonies, the day I was hired to teach here, and the recognition I received by former headmaster Dr. Jerome Chermak and current Head of School Dr. William Kopas. I’ll also always remember one of Dr. Chermak’s commencement addresses where he spoke about my life experiences in the presence of my sister and wife who were in attendance.
What are some words of wisdom you would share with future educators?
Work hard. Everyone is smart in different ways. Enjoy and appreciate what you have, especially the opportunity to receive a good education.