Goodwill Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

    [fa icon="calendar"] May 31, 2024 12:15:00 PM / by Riley McCarthy

    Riley McCarthy

    May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and as part of our celebration of this cultural holiday, we are excited to highlight Connie De Castro, a science teacher and leader at The Excel Center® location at University Heights. 

    Connie De Castro is originally from The Philippines and has loved teaching from an early age. In fourth grade, her science teacher would share the next day’s lesson with her and then ask Connie to teach her classmates the following day.  This early experience as a “little science teacher” is one that she cherishes even to this day.  After receiving her undergraduate degree in chemistry, Connie proceeded to pursue her Master of Science in Chemistry degree while teaching  part time as a graduate student.  She then embarked on a career in the corporate world. Once she got married and started a family, Connie felt drawn back to teaching and began teaching at the college level. 

    Connie’s husband’s career led the family to Brunei, a small nation on the island of Borneo, and for 16 years, Connie taught at the high school level. Her children left Brunei to go to college in the Midwest and eventually Connie and her husband followed them. Connie belongs to the 2014 Indianapolis Teach for America (TFA) cohort.  Through TFA, she was able to obtain her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Marian University.  Initially posted  at the Fall Creek Academy Charter School, she moved on  to become a founding member of The Excel Center University Heights. The Excel Center was Connie’s first experience with adult education and although teaching adults can be challenging in certain ways, she is inspired by her students. 

    “Between kids and jobs, it is so hard for these students to come to school, but they still find time to do it. I can’t help but support them on this difficult journey, especially our MLL (multi-language learner) students,” Connie said.

    Many students at The Excel Center where Connie teaches are originally from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), a country in Southeast Asia. Connie shares that because of her Asian heritage, there is a cultural integration with her students, and they often come to her to help navigate many situations, academically and socially. Outside of the classroom Connie assists with student recruitment and is also dedicated to building a community at The Excel Center and celebrating the different cultures of staff and students. She enjoys events like student engagement days where students share about their background and bring in foods from their cultures.  

    Connie’s passion for her students and for teaching was celebrated earlier this Month when it was announced that she had won Educator of the Year at The Excel Center’s University Heights location. She loves teaching at The Excel Center.  For her, what she has with the Excel Center is not just a job;  it is ministry as well, her way of giving back to the community.

    “We are impacting lives through education. We are breaking the cycle of poverty with the program we have for our students and with programs like the Young Learner’s Child Care and other wraparound services, we are also impacting the lives of our students’ children and their families,” Connie said. 

    She is especially inspired by the families that attend together and encourage one another to continue on their education journeys.   

    Having so much experience and such a strong connection with her students allows Connie to be very flexible as the head of the classroom. She is able to provide individualized attention to each student and customize each lesson to suit their needs. Next year, Connie will celebrate ten years of teaching at The Excel Center, and she will be taking advantage of Goodwill’s REFRESH benefit, which gives employees three weeks of paid time off to recharge and return to work with a renewed focus. She plans to visit Israel with her husband during her time off and will return to The Excel Center with the same passion she has now.


    If you or any great educators you know are interested in a career at one of our schools, please visit

    Topics: The Excel Center, Education, Mission Awareness, Leadership Spotlight, University Heights, Educator Appreciation Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

    Riley McCarthy

    Written by Riley McCarthy

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