Norfina Joves on "A Brief History of Time" and Her Daughter's Love for Japan

Noodle Expert Norfina Joves discusses what she learned about the universe in "A Brief History of Time" and her daughter's contagious love for the Japanese language.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

I would like to be in a class taught by Stephen Hawking because I have always been fascinated with his theoretical perspectives and hypotheses on the universe, cosmos, and planetary systems. Stephen Hawking has been my academic and philosophical “idol.” His brilliance, courage, and depth of knowledge have stunned and challenged scientific theorists and physicists worldwide.

When I was an undergraduate, I read one of his famous books called "A Brief History of Time," and the content of his claims and theories struck me because he wrote about the inception of the universe, time travel, black holes, and God's plan to make the universe. I would eagerly want to learn how he arrived at the theories and pose questions, such as what he believes is the beginning and end of time. I would like him to explain his perception and theory on the universe — whether he believes it has infinite or has limited boundaries.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

I have been very blessed to have mentors over the years and during my career development. I think one piece of advice that has had an impact on my life is valuing the importance of developing and nurturing your true passion. It has helped me understand and develop the deepest, most meaningful clarity and direction in my life because I am able to delve into what I really want to accomplish. Having a job is one thing; it’s another when you develop a career that you find most significant.

It took me years to realize that my greatest interest is in education, and as such, I wanted to pursue a career that helps improve student achievement, addresses educational divides and learning gaps, and uses best practices and strategies that have a greater effect on student learning outcomes. This piece of advice helps me grow, improves critical skills that help me reach my goals and aspirations, and allows me to connect with others whose passion is as great as mine. I enjoy and thrive around those who share the same interests because I know that by their side I can grow personally and professionally.

Where would you send a student who hasn’t traveled before?

I have a biased opinion on this question because my daughter has been highly interested in the Japanese culture and language. As my daughter developed a strong desire to learn a third language, in addition to Spanish and my native language — Filipino Tagalog — we have been actively exploring Japanese culture together. In the months that followed, I saw why she preferred to learn the language — it's dynamic, complex, and challenges her linguistic nature. As a student, she influenced me to consider traveling to Japan. It is a place that I consider innovative and beautiful. Japan also has a very strong influence on Western society and vice versa. In other words, I would suggest a student travel to Japan so she can develop a stronger appreciation for a culture and language different from her own.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

I recall failing academically during my undergraduate years when I took a genetics exams. Honestly, this was the most difficult course for me. I did not mind understanding genetics to conduct project-based tasks or scientific applications in research. I appreciated the study of genetics overall and knew it could support experimental methods, but taking the course on genetics was a challenge. The most important lesson I learned from the experience was to seek help when needed from my peers and instructors as soon as possible.

Today, you can have peer support and faculty who offer tutoring or mentoring so you can be better prepared and have some additional instructional time. I learned how important it is take advantage of these resources and to address any academic challenges early. Whether you are a high school or college student or a professional who needs extra academic support, it is important to reach out for help. After all, your academic growth and development depend on your proactive desire to improve your understanding.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

Since I started homeschooling my daughter, I have always had a great interest in education, although I was not sure what specific areas I wanted to teach. I initially had an interest in teaching biology, which is why I decided to go back to graduate school. I enjoy scientific inquiries and their applications. I thought that as an educator, I can have a greater impact on student learning in a classroom environment. Shortly after earning my master's, I realized that I am most effective and can have greater impact on student achievement outside of classroom by connecting with students in a leadership capacity that influences educational outcomes. As a result, my interest evolved and I started developing greater passion by connecting with schools and leadership through communication on policy, advocacy, and research. Although I am no longer in a classroom, my professional desire to be in the field of education remains a career aspiration.

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