On a recent enchanted Halloween night, Amber Olvera underwent a remarkable transformation from an educator to embodying the iconic Mexican figure of “La Catrina” as part of the ‘trunk or treat” event at Meredith Nicholson Elementary School 96.
Standing next to her vehicle adorned with skeletons and other Halloween-related items, the first-year kindergarten teacher handed out candy and other treats to hundreds of families visiting the school parking lot.
Her attire was not only a visual feast for the eyes but also a heartfelt representation of the importance of cultural diversity and inclusion in the school’s community, allowing students and families to learn and appreciate the significance of this holiday and its colorful customs.
“This is one of my favorite events,” said Olvera, a familiar face at the school for many years as a parent volunteer, substitute teacher, teaching assistant, and cheerleading coach. “It’s fun to dress up and share your evening with the school’s families. The children are just so sweet here. I know they are having a wonderful time.”
She and her husband, who is originally from Mexico, brought a rich cultural tradition to the celebration. They shared their unique way of commemorating the holiday by putting up pictures of their loved ones, a practice deeply rooted in Mexican culture by observing Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos. From Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, families gather to remember and honor their deceased loved ones.
“These are our actual decorations from our home, and we brought them here to celebrate,” Olvera shared. “It’s my way of interacting with our Hispanic students.”
Her dedication to the event was evident as she recounted her history of participating in such celebrations. Last year, her costume was inspired by “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Olvera’s enthusiasm for making the kids at the school happy was heartwarming, as she expressed her love for the children and her passion for creating memorable experiences for them.
Olvera’s journey to teaching is due to the IndyTeach Apprenticeship, a no-cost, paid, fully embedded educator training program offering a path to teaching for aspiring teachers. Current IPS non-teaching staff, college graduates, or those who wish to pursue a new career in education after starting in other careers are all good candidates for this teacher certification program.
Having a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and forensic science, she never pursued a career in that field due to its oversaturation after 9/11. It was her principal, Lashonda Huff, who encouraged her to consider teaching, and she described her experience as fun and rewarding.
“Many people might think that kindergarten is all about playing and some even think we still take naps in kindergarten, but we are way too busy learning letters, letter sounds and how to read,” Olvera said. “We have to cover a lot of curriculum every day. But I love working with these children.”