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ANA ARREAGA

2nd Grade | Dan D. Rogers Elementary | Dallas ISD

Charles Butt Scholar Alum, UT College of Education

As the 2020-21 school year came to an end, ten Charles Butt Scholar alumni in their first years as Texas teachers shared their learnings and reflections with us. The stories, struggles, and triumphs showcased in this Q&A portfolio provide an honest look at what it’s like to be a new teacher.

Q What is something you’ve learned from a student this year?

A Agency and identity go hand and hand! I have 14 Latinx students with different cultural backgrounds. Our cultures make our class rich and beautiful. My students have taught me that our cultures are colorful, different, and unique.

Q What was a challenge you faced this school year and how did you overcome it?

A I graduated during a pandemic and not having graduation as a first-generation student was hard. I was really upset. Especially knowing that I worked 14 hours/week, did 20 hours/week of school, and was involved in many organizations. I guess part of me felt like I had earned a ceremony. Now I plan on celebrating with my second graders the last day of school (June 18th).

We want to throw a big party and dress up and recognize our accomplishments over the year. In my opinion, celebrating with eight-year-olds is even better than graduating with college students.

Q What have you seen over the course of this school year that gives you hope/optimism about Texas public schools?

A I started having Latino Monday! Every Monday my students and I talk about an important Latinx community member who has made an impact. For example, my students had a chance to learn about Sylvia Mendez and compare her story to Ruby Bridges, and those discussions were amazing. My students are able to see themselves more and more in the education system. Sometimes my kiddos tell me that they go home and tell their parents about what we learn, which makes me feel so happy.

Q What did you learn from your teacher preparation program that helped prepare you for this past year, and knowing what you know now, what do you wish you had learned to be better prepared?

A My program did a really good job teaching me the importance of a community – that a school community includes everyone from the custodians, lunch helpers, teaching assistants, to the bus drivers. These staff members are the backbone of schools. I teach my students respect and I expect that respect for everyone.

Q What is a practice/strategy you will take from your teaching experience during COVID-19 and integrate into future (non-COVID) years?

A The practice of telling my students every single day that not only they are bilingual, but they are bicultural and this is a beautiful asset! I tell them everyday and by this point I know they can hear me in their sleep, but I know that when they walk out of my class they will know that they are valuable.

Q What advice or encouragement do you have for teachers starting their careers in the 2021-22 school year?

A The first year may feel very lonely. Especially, after following college but that process is necessary in order for you to grow up and those are the most important parts of life.

Q Thinking about the 2020-21 school year as a whole, what was your greatest lesson, either about teaching or yourself as a professional?

A It’s okay not to be perfect the first year. You are growing and learning and you will find the right people who will guide you.

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