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Thigpen is proud to be a part of largest ethnic minority in the United States

LBW Community College professor Maria Thigpen said she is proud to be apart of the largest ethnic minority in the United States.

Thigpen earned her law degree in Colombia before moving to the United States to marry her husband, Bill.

Her original plan was to continue to practice law in the U.S., but after teaching Spanish for the Upward Bound program, she fell in love with teaching.

“I realized that I loved to teach,” Thigpen said. “So, I started substituting for the high school. I didn’t really enjoy teaching at the high school level. So, I went to Troy University in Dothan to earn my master’s degree. That way I could teach at the college level.”

Thigpen started her master’s degree in 2004 and started teaching as an adjunct professor at Troy University in Dothan and at LBW Community College.

Although she comes from Colombia, she started teaching American government because of her background in political science and law.

“I always think about the first day when I start introducing myself to my American government students,” Thigpen said. “The students always look very confused because they are in American government and then here I come with my accent. They always look around like, ‘Are we in the right class?’”

For Thigpen, teaching American government is a dream come true.

“In my country, we always admire the United States for their politics,” Thigpen said. “We think that it is so advanced. So, teaching American government for me is a dream come true. The ideas and traditions that the founding fathers were able to write down in the Constitution are amazing. It is something that every other country is trying to copy.”

Now, Thigpen is the division chair for the business, I.T. and social science division. She teaches American government, ethics and world regional geography.

Thigpen hopes that Hispanic Heritage Month raises awareness to the contributions that the Hispanic culture brings to the United States.

“I think the Hispanic culture, although it is different from the Anglo-Saxon culture, it is close enough that it still has a lot of the western values that the United States has,” Thigpen said. “I have been here for almost 23 years and I have already seen a change. Now, you can go to the supermarket and get food that I never thought I would be able to get in the United States. They used to only have grapes and apples. Now, they have guava, plantains and mango. There is definitely a change in the food offerings.”

Even though she came from Colombia, Thigpen said the United States is now her home.

“My culture is always something that will stay with me,” Thigpen said. “The food, family ties and warmth will always be there, but at the same time, when I go back to Colombia, I feel like it’s not home anymore. Home is here. I guess I get the best of both worlds.”