Comics/Graphic Novels

How Comics and Teaching Helped Me Find the Superhero in Me

It was about summer 2015 when I reached a breaking point. I was the editor for a well-known teen magazine site and was feeling like my soul was being crushed, as I did not feel as fulfilled as I thought I would feel writing about Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. I felt empty. I felt lost. They pay was okay, the events were fun, and the people were kind, but I did not feel like I truly belonged. I knew I was meant for more, as I taught nights at the local community college and found true enjoyment in the classroom environment.

I always felt like I belonged more as an educator, even from that first teaching gig. Flashback to 2008–2009 when I was partly laid off from The Miami Herald. I thought all was lost, after over 15 years of a journalism career. Then, a former professor from Florida International University contacted me to teach a class at the school. Nervous, I took the leap, and I fell in love with teaching. I’ll never forget when the students, some older than me, brought me a cake for my birthday and said I helped them so much with their education. I was floored, and I continued my adjunct teaching career, even if it meant working nights and weekends after leaving the newsroom. I had found my calling. But at that time, I was scared to make the change and do it full-time. With an MS in Mass Communications and Journalism, I thought that was all I could do: write journalistic stories. I never gave myself enough credit, at the time, as an educator. But, as the years went by, I taught at Miami-Dade College and continued teaching at Florida International University — then, even University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University. In every classroom, I met some amazing students and truly felt like I was making an honest change.

A photo of Aurora Dominguez with a group of Florida International University students
Aurora Dominguez with a group of Florida International University students in 2018.

To find the strength inside of me to be a good educator and make a change, I looked up to the fantastical stories of Marvel and DC superheroes. Wonder Woman, with her lasso of truth, was one that I looked up to the most, and still do. Strong, fierce, and honest, with a focus on the real impact of love, as I read comics by her and followed her story, it made me relate to her. I mostly related to her belief that you have to love yourself, love others, and stay true to yourself — as much as you can, at all times. One quote by her that I always appreciated and started really focusing on at the time was: “Because no matter how small an act of kindness or generosity or simple positivity you put out into the world, it will make a difference.” So, I decided to make a change, leave journalism full-time, and throw myself full-time into the classroom in 2015–2016. This classroom was at Boca Raton Community High School. I haven’t looked back, and since then I have moved my writing career to freelancing, which I also adore.

Aurora Dominguez in a Wonder Woman costume and a red face mask holding a birthday gift bag in her classroom at Boca Raton Community High Schoo
Aurora Dominguez in her classroom at Boca Raton Community High School.

At first, I was extremely scared to take the leap, but to this day, I bring that passion of superheroes and the lessons they teach into my own lectures. From Black Panther’s bravery in Wakanda, to the fact that we should not put up with toxic relationships and what we can learn from them (Harley Quinn and The Joker), to empowerment when we all come together and fight for what’s right (The Avengers), I make sure to incorporate themes and quotes into my lessons in my AP and AICE Cambridge writing and research courses. To the point that, when students come into my classroom, they are surrounded by superheroes themselves to remind them that they, too, can be anyone that they want to be, if they just believe in themselves.

Photo of Aurora in her classroom with superhero images on the wall in the background
Superheroes always play a part in Aurora’s classroom decorations at Boca High, where she has been teaching since the 2015–2016 school year.

To this day, I’m still at Boca High. My students love my lessons and my cosplays, and they love that I tell them that they, too, can find the strength within to be whoever they wish to become. Like one of my students wrote this year in a letter to me, after she was in my classroom during hybrid teaching in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Mrs. Dominguez, you are our superhero. Not all superheroes wear capes.” Just to have them see me as someone that they can look up to, learn from, and confide in has helped me find the superhero in me.

I feel so thankful, not only to my favorite comic book characters for giving me strength to teach and be myself, but also to all of those that have been heroes in my own life. Like my husband, who always saw in me the truth and knew that I was meant to be happy as a teacher.

Wonder Woman, thank you so much for making this quote real in my daily life: “I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” It is my duty, and my destiny, to serve others in this capacity, and I’m happy to be there for my 10th graders on a daily basis. All it took was a little belief, a little strength, and the push to be greater than I thought I could ever be. I’m happy with the hero I have become and for the heroes my students become every day, no matter the circumstances that are thrown their way. I would not have it any other way, and I see the light even in the toughest moments, knowing there is a spark inside of me meant to inspire others and make others realize that they, too, can be a superhero.

Close up of Aurora dressed as Wonder Woman
Photo by Nabila Verushka: Aurora Dominguez as Wonder Woman.