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College students gain career experience at PSJA ISD

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Texas Border Business

PHARR- For education majors, getting the opportunity to teach in a classroom before graduating is encouraged, and college students from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M International University in Laredo are gaining that experience by student-teaching at PSJA ISD this school year. 

Currently, the district has about 50 student-teachers learning the ins and outs of teaching across the district. With 43 students hailing from UTRGV and seven from Texas A&M International University, their mentors are working to ensure the student-teachers get the most out of their semester in the district. 

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“Teaching is a calling. You need to have patience, dedication and passion for this field, and those are traits you will find from educators in our district,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “The students who are participating in this program are getting mentored by some of the best in the field, and we hope they are able to learn all they can while they are here.”

Alejandrina Maldonado is a senior Interdisciplinary Studies major at UTRGV. For her, being able to come back to the district she graduated from in 2015, was exactly what she was looking for as her way to give back. 

“Student teaching gives us experience before going into the classroom. We get to shadow a certified teacher, we get to work with them, we see how they teach, the strategies they use and the techniques they have,” said Maldonado, who graduated from PSJA Memorial Early College HS. “I’m happy to be here. I hope one day I can teach at PSJA after coming full circle from being a student here.”

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Those who are student teaching at PSJA ISD, however, have had to adapt to what they learned in school as an effect of the current pandemic. Students are now finding unique ways to engage students from through a computer screen. 

“I’m glad that PSJA still has this program in spite of what’s going on because we get to see something different,” Maldonado said. “If something else happens, we now have the resources and knowledge of technology to work something out.”

Maldonado has been observing 1st grade bilingual teacher Linda Ayala from Arnold Elementary since she started her student teaching in the beginning of September. Ayala, who has been teaching in the district for 34 years, feels student teaching is necessary for a successful transition from student to teacher. 

“If students were to go straight into the classroom after graduating, they probably wouldn’t know where to start,” said Ayala, a PSJA High School Class of 1978 alum. “Slowly but surely, my student teacher is realizing that there’s more to teaching than just classes from the university and the difference of having actual experience in the classroom.”

Ayala’s advice for student teachers is for them to check in on different classrooms, if possible, so they can absorb different teaching styles. 

“Every student teacher is different, but they will learn something from anybody here,” she said. “I encourage the student teachers, if they can get to a campus, to observe other teachers in different subjects so they can see how everyone teaches and they can get different ideas from within our PSJA Family.”

For Maldonado, the experience she has obtained from student teaching in the district for just one month is positive enough to invite others to participate. 

“I encourage everyone to come to PSJA,” Maldonado said. “The teachers, the staff, everyone is just so welcoming, and they have helped me a lot. If I have any questions, everyone is there to help me.”

According to Chief of Human Resources Melissa Agüero-Ramirez, all it takes is a positive experience for the student teachers to ignite their passion for teaching and be lifelong educators.  

“Thank you for choosing this calling,” she said. “This is a great profession, and it is all worth it in the end.”

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