Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Education becomes an avenue to help create a better society, providing more economic opportunities to families everywhere and reducing inequalities. The quality of education makes all the difference throughout the years, proven by the upcoming generations of the Rio Grande Valley.
The Brownsville Independent School District is one prime example of how learning can fundamentally change someone’s life. These women, each an Assistant Superintendent in the District, come from diverse backgrounds. They have been shaped and molded by their education. Now on a mission to give back to the very community that helped them, they have been instrumental to the success found at Brownsville ISD.
I never thought about becoming an educator, to be honest. I stumbled upon it accidentally. I had gotten a degree in biology and initially wanted to conduct research, but I came from a very low-income single-parent family, and I needed to get a job right away. I was able to get my first teaching job at Gladys Porter Early College High School, right here at Brownsville ISD. I really ended up liking teaching and continued with my goal of becoming an administrator. I obtained my master’s degree in administration and then was lucky enough to obtain my doctorate with the UT Austin Cooperative Superintendency Program.
There truly is an impact on students at various levels. As a teacher, you are directly influencing the students’ educational experiences, but as you continue towards the administrative trajectory, you indirectly impact student achievement by ensuring that the teachers and principals obtain the training and resources that will ensure teaching and learning is at an optimum. My belief is that I am an educator at heart, and now I get to teach the principals I supervise based on my 31 years of experience.
I was pleasantly surprised that my colleagues share the same belief system as I do. We work as a team of four, ensuring the campuses exceed the goals they have set for the school year. We keep the focus on student success. We ensure all goals are met, from kinder to 12th grade. We want to make sure that students graduate with some form of certification that is aligned with the workforce needs. Not all students want to attend college, so industry-based certifications are extremely critical, and we do a very good job at Brownsville ISD to offer a variety of certifications that increase the chances of a future graduate becoming gainfully employed. Additionally, the students have a huge variety of dual courses to pick from, so they will graduate with college hours.
My colleagues and I were principals at various levels. For me, my proudest accomplishment dates back to when I first became a middle school principal at Cummings Middle School. It was a school that was close to becoming academically unacceptable by the Texas Education Agency. I started off with a brand-new administrative team, and we quickly noticed that the campus was fractured and did not work well as a team. Through hard work and with the help of my administrative team, we were able to turn it around, and within three years, it became a TEA recognized campus. My other proud accomplishment is when I left Cummings, the teachers were working closely as a team with the vision of continuing the success they had accomplished.
Now, as an assistant superintendent, my favorite aspect of my current position as the Assistant Superintendent of High Schools is to again be within the campuses, visiting the schools and attending the various student body functions. I can connect once again with the students, perhaps indirectly, but through ensuring the principals feel supported, I believe it has a positive impact on student success. I like to talk to them and ask them what their future goals are and what they are expecting to do when they graduate from high school.
Often told by my mother that she saw something special within me as she frequently consented to play along, pretending our home was the classroom. Hours on end, she would sit with me as I pretended to be the teacher and she the student. Education is valued in my family, as I come from humble beginnings. My parents migrated from Mexico to the United States soon after they married.
Becoming an educator was an obvious choice due to my parent’s admiration for this noble profession and their great respect for teachers. In 4th grade, I knew education was to become my vocation due to my teacher Mr. Cavazos. Knowing I was fluent in Spanish, he would have me lead a small group of Spanish speakers during their Spanish reading time. The students would work on their fluency as I led and corrected any of their reading mistakes. In addition, I would ask comprehension questions after they would read. I loved tutoring my peers, and I felt like the teacher I pretended to be when role-playing with my mother. I knew at that young age that serving others and making a difference was my path in life.
Since then, I have been an educator for approximately 33 years which includes being a teacher, an assistant principal, dean, principal, and now as an assistant superintendent.
Even though I was honored to have been awarded the H-E-B Excellence in Education South Texas Secondary Principal of the Year Award and State Finalist for three consecutive years, this was not my greatest accomplishment. Instead, the most memorable moments in my career occurred when I humbly served the Pace Early College High School Community as their proud principal. Together with an amazing team of teachers and staff, we were able to transform the campus into a High Performing School that also earned the National Center for Urban School Transformation Gold Award (NCUST), among many other accolades.
The most daunting aspect of my career has been the fear of not being able to equitably serve all students due to this pandemic. The constant change has created a sense of urgency within education to ensure we work to meet all students’ needs. However, I am not surprised by our dedication and determination to come together as a district, and no matter what, COVID or no COVID, we stood as one team, a BISD family that worked towards finding the perfect solution for all our BISD students.
My parents are the ones who inspired me to pursue an education. I’m a first-generation graduate of higher education. Growing up, I saw the sacrifices my mother made for her to go to school to learn to read and speak the English language so she could support my siblings and me in our academic progress, so she can speak to our teachers and for her to make sure we kept on the right track. When my mom took those night classes, she would take me. I was very young, and she would sit me next to her in those classes, and I would listen in. Then we would go back, and she would have assignments and homework. So, she would sit with me, and we would practice together. Ever since then, I always thought I would become a teacher growing up, and I did become a teacher because I enjoyed learning from that experience.
I’ve been in education for 42 years. During those 42 years, I taught all grade levels from first to sixth grade. I became the Dean of Instruction, which helps support teachers in curriculum and instruction. That’s been my passion, to help support teachers in the classroom so that they can deliver instruction to students with more academic success.
It was exciting when I first became an assistant superintendent. I had close to 30 schools at the time since there were only two assistant superintendents overseeing campuses. I saw it as a challenge, and I didn’t see it as work. As a matter of fact, I was excited because my passion has been working with schools and helping principals, supporting them, and working with them. My favorite aspect was learning how to support and listen. I think it’s listening to the people you supervise and providing support. I am pleasantly surprised that we have a lot of committed educators in our public schools. I am very blessed with working with people who care about what they do and ensuring that kids are successful.
There’s so many things I’m proud of. Still, I think that I’m very proud that, together with my staff, I was able to turn around a low-performing school (Clearwater Elementary) into an exemplary school. This translates to students receiving a quality education and paying back what quality education I received growing up as a student. My journey of 42 years has been very rewarding as an individual.
I truly believe that when you go into education, so many factors play into that role. My father was a ninth-grade dropout. He later enlisted in the AirForce, allowing him to receive the GI Bill to go to college. He later became an educator, and within that time, he became a lawyer. My mother was born and raised in Mexico and was a fifth-grade dropout, but praise God; she received her GED and later became a cosmetologist. However, when I was in high school, especially my senior year, my parents went through a difficult divorce. This life experience impacted me differently; however, I focused on my school opportunities and faith.
As a senior, I earned a chance to attend the International Science Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I remember vividly the experiences of exploring the world and seeing all that my teachers, community, parents, and family had done to nurture the environment that led me to continue my education. I have been with Brownsville ISD for 27 years as a teacher at Porter ECHS, Assistant Principal at Central Middle School, Principal at Raul Besteiro Middle School, District Bilingual Director, Assistant Superintendent for ISET, and now an Assistant Superintendent overseeing elementary schools.
The one event I would have loved my parents to have witnessed was receiving the 2010 HEB Excellence in Education State Principal award. Unfortunately, by the time I had received the award, they were both deceased. However, my community, family, and children witnessed such a moment in time. I wanted my parents to see the power of one person going to college and how it impacts generations to come. I would say a lot of us carry our cross. Every family, student, educator carries their cross of concerns and worries. I was surprised to see people shy away from asking for help, and I had to learn that it was our job to facilitate open communication and serve our educators and parents. Our job is to find the variety of language and communication modes that best serve our community. Our need to facilitate open communication is forever a top priority as we help our families move forward, making the impossible possible.
All four of the Brownsville ISD Assistant Superintendents came from different backgrounds, and all have their own stories of how they began their journey to where they are today. Yet, one thing remains consistent throughout all these women: The passion and love they feel for what they do and the people they serve are sincere and genuine. It is their primary motivator as they strive to do their best day after day and show in their work.