Educator Board

Revathi Balakrishnan
5th-grade ELA & social studies
Round Rock isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

Many factors led up to this moment, the primary one being that I wanted to work with children.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

Besides watching students learn, I am motivated by the prospect of my own learning, helping others teachers navigate the system and to advocate for teachers.
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Cindy Cockerill
english langauge arts
6th-12th grades
utopia isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

In high school, I participated in a program where we went to a nearby elementary school on a daily basis to help the teacher and work with students. That was one of the highlights of my day, every day. I knew I belonged in a classroom. After teaching for a couple of years I decided to attend law school. I went to the first day of classes and realized that my heart was still in the public school classroom. I returned to teaching. This is where I belong. This is where I thrive.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

I feel more in touch with the direction our society is taking when I spend so much time with students. Their new perspectives help me remember to be open-minded about new things. Interacting with young people keeps me involved in the changing world around me.
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Stefanie Garcia
high school reading specialist
keller isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

After my second year being a teacher, I realized this wasn't just a job that I could do until something better came along. I actually liked it. I don't know the exact moment, but that year is when I realized it.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

Understanding the importance of education to society keeps me motivated.
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Christopher Green
7th-grade writing
san antonio isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

During my junior year of college, I was named Program Director at KTSW 89.9FM, the student radio station at Texas State University. In this role, I trained my peers in navigating a radio studio, broadcasting and audio editing. This leadership experienced gave me the thought that I would one day enjoy teaching at the college level. At the time of my college graduation, I was not considering teaching K-12, but one day through sheer coincidence or destiny, I stumbled upon Teach For America’s website. I read everything I could, applied and knew that I wanted to spend the next two years of my life working with students. Though I wasn’t sure if I would be successful, I fell in love with this work and here I am enjoying my 4th year as an educator.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

On the best days of teaching, I wish the day would never end. On the most difficult days, I can’t wait to return to my classroom and take another opportunity to improve my craft. My students past and current, inspire me to continue the important work of education. The partnerships with parents and families give me an incredible amount of hope about the possibilities for our world. I have been fortunate enough to meet amazing teachers at my campus, from across the state, and even in other countries. I remain in the classroom because I know I am not alone.
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Tiffanie Harrison
High School marketing
Round Rock ISD
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

I don't have one. I didn't choose teaching; it chose me! I worked in industry first and felt that something was missing. The last job I worked prior to teaching was for a non-profit that did corporate finance education for youth in under-served communities throughout the US. We also did M&A simulations with the students in New York in the summers. The job kept me well-connected with high-level executives in Corporate America but I realized what I loved most was the educational component. I wasn't moved by the dinners on the NYSE floor. I was moved by the time spent with the students talking about finance and really, just life in general. That's when I knew that this was something that I wanted to pursue.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

My teaching practice centers around equity. The deeper my understanding of systemic inequities in public education grows, the more imperative it is that I stay in education as a teacher of color. It is difficult but necessary.
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Joy Hart
k-5 academic interventionist
Round Rock ISD
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and after high school, I served as an Americorps member. For a year, I mentored and tutored at an inner-city school. During that time, I got to build relationships with students and watch them grow academically and socially. Watching my students succeed solidified that education was my calling and passion.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

To advocate for students.
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Kristina Kern
Elementary school counselor
Austin ISD
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

In college, I volunteered at an elementary school and tutored a student every week. I watched change happen before my eyes and knew I wanted to continue to see change in other students.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

Outside of the role as a parent/guardian, educators have an opportunity to positively affect an individual child. Every word and/or action can inspire a child, and with that awareness, I strive to provide a warm, welcoming, inclusive environment at my school.
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Sarah Lanahan
High school math instructional coach
Pflugerville ISD
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

I struggled when I was in school in math but at various times I had amazing, inspiring teachers that did not give up on me and worked with me until I really understood challenging concepts and realized that with hard work I was able to understand and apply mathematical concepts. Those teachers inspired me to become a lifelong learner and to become a math teacher like them.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

The constant need for students and teachers to understand and implement new technology and rigor in the classroom.
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Ginny Matthew
Intermediate life skills
Gilmer ISD
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

My 6th-grade teacher, Mr. Schrade, made me want to become a teacher. He was a police officer prior to being a teacher and was very inspirational.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

I am motivated by the challenge of teaching and teaching the kids that are “tough.”
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Julia O’Kelly
instructional technology specialist
irving isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

I volunteered with underprivileged and at-risk students during college. Literacy and children had always been a passion of mine. When I realized that so many students were eager to learn, but did not have access to the kind of instruction they needed (especially in reading), I started my journey into education.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

Knowing that our children's needs and those of society are always evolving.
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Beth Questad
10th-grade Pre-AP English
11th-grade AP English
Leander ISD
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

It wasn't until I had been a teacher for several years. I had taken a break and was working for a publisher. One day, when economic considerations required that we change an approach in the book that was educationally valid, I realized I didn't ever want to be in a position where I compromised what I believed in just because it might make more money. It occurred to me that, as a teacher, I could close my door and teach and work with those students in front of me the best way I knew how. So I applied that day to go back to school the next year.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

Working with students. They are the high and low points, ironically enough. But their voices, ideas, optimism and potential make me feel lucky most days.
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Veronica Silva
8th-grade english language arts
austin isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

It was in my eighth grade English class that I decided to be a teacher. We were writing a research paper on what we wanted to be when we grew up. I knew I wanted to be just like my favorite teacher, Mrs. Massie, and go to Texas State University to become a teacher just as she did.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

I’m motivated to stay in the classroom because I know that the U.S. schooling experience has not provided the best education for all students and continues underserving our most vulnerable populations. U.S. schools punished my grandparents for speaking Spanish, devalued my families educational abilities, and left me feeling invisible and disconnected from curriculum’s that rarely included the stories of my people or anyone that looked like me. I continue to teach because all students deserve a schooling experience that is inclusive and affirming of all their identities.
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Sarah Underbrink
high school science
keller isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

For me, the moment I wanted to become a teacher is not an inspiring moment. It was the moment I realized I wanted to STAY. It was my second year. I had stopped doing things the way others before me had done them, and I started doing things my own way. When I saw that I could build up confidence, inspire future success, and build self worth in people simply by showing them that they could do basic physics problems - I knew I was never going to stop.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

The money, obviously! In all seriousness, though, it's the students. It's sappy, it's cliche, but it's them.
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Lauren Whitfield
assistant principal
wayside schools
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

I have worked with children in every job I have ever had. I knew when entering college that my mission for my life was to impact children in a positive way. I knew that as a teacher I could impact a large number of students over time, so I pursued a degree in education. Since then, I have been able to learn and grow alongside my students for 9 years. I love the field of education and am excited to make an impact each and every day!

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

The small successes with students that happen daily.
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Jessica Zeske
high school math
northwest isd
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a teacher.

I come from a family of teachers, so it was meant to be! I remember writing on the board in my Mom’s classroom vividly. My 6th-grade teacher, however, is the one who helped me realize that Math is my calling. So many students dislike a subject that I fell in love with. I knew I had to share my love of Math with others.

What motivates you to stay in the classroom/teaching profession?

As someone who considers herself a life-long learner, I appreciate how advantageous it is having a teacher who is passionate about the content. As a mom, I realize how vital teachers are to not only one’s education but sometimes the overall quality of the day. In a profession that is continually changing and evolving, I know that my ability to build relationships with my students will remain constant.
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