Thursday, September 11, 2014

SBISD’s New Teachers inspired to be here

Kari Young chose Spring Branch ISD for her own children. Today, this University of Houston Student Teacher of the Year teaches eighth-grade science at Spring Oaks Middle School. “I chose SBISD both for my children’s education and for my employment because I love that Spring Branch has its own vision of student success which does not rely exclusively on high stakes, standardized tests for validation.

SBISD aims to educate the whole child – physically, socially, emotionally, and, of course, academically,” Kari says. Kari Young joins 322 other new teachers this year in choosing the SBISD classroom as their educational home. Their choice was based on a variety of reasons: education and research, a good work-life balance, and school and community relationships for those who grew up in Spring Branch and Memorial.

Kari grew up in Burleson, Texas, outside Fort Worth, and then earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Rice University. Three children and almost 17 years later, she earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston to help her re-enter the workforce as a teacher.

Over the decades, she was drawn to the classroom as a volunteer in the Berkeley Adult School where she taught English as a Second Language and U.S. Citizenship to recent immigrants. She observed classes in Malaysia and in the United States.

A student teacher last year at Spring Oaks Middle and Westwood Elementary, Kari was awarded the UH Student Teacher of the Year recognition. She completed her master’s program in May 2014. Teaching in SBISD, as well as teaching science, are intentional and thoughtful choices on her part. 

On SBISD, she says: “SBISD is on a mission to help each and every student reach his or her full potential by completing some form of higher education. Both the goal, and the methods the district is employing to reach that goal, are strongly supported by the research I studied in graduate school. It is such a pleasure to put all of my hard work in graduate school to immediate use in the classroom.”

On teaching science, she says: “I hope to guide my students to a successful path. I chose to teach science because it seems to me to be the most relevant topic for many students and it encompasses, or at least connects to, all of the other disciplines. The history of the world is the history of scientific discovery and technological advancement, especially in more recent years. Math is the language of science. Scientific knowledge is advanced through the medium of language and communication. The holistic nature of science appeals to students and to me!”

Kari hopes to find time to stay committed to running half marathons and seeing the world. Some of her favorite places in the world include Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Cocoa Island in the Maldives, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, where she has lived. Her energy and sense of adventure are boundless.

She climbs high mountains and volcanoes, swims with dolphins, hikes glaciers, and likes to scuba dive and rock climb. “I hope that my students will get swept up in my enthusiasm for exploring and learning!” she exclaims.

Equally enthusiastic about SBISD is Lauren Roberts, a Memorial native who is a graduate of Frostwood Elementary, Memorial Middle and Memorial High schools. In May, Lauren graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She’s now teaching prekindergarten at Sherwood Elementary School.

She student taught in Lubbock in a Title 1 campus where difficult situations brightened when students in her care made sudden academic connections. Lauren always felt that teaching called to her, but it wasn’t until she was a senior in high school that she was certain. Lauren participated in Future Teachers in high school and was placed at Bunker Hill Elementary.

There, she was supported and influenced by teachers Jenny Lewis and Amy Schendel. “They were two amazing teachers and I wanted to be just like them when I had my own classroom! I still have a close relationship with them and they continue to help me to this very day. I would suggest Future Teachers to every high school student who is interested in going into the education field,” Lauren says. Just for fun, Disney World is a favorite place, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror her favorite rides.

On weekends, she likes deer hunting with her dad, riding four-wheel vehicles, and being around a camp fire. Angelica Contreras was born and raised in Laredo, but she moved to Spring Branch as soon as she could. She is teaching seventh-grade math this year at Spring Woods Middle School.

After moving to Houston and then marrying in 2003, Angelica and her husband moved to Spring Branch. Her daughter attended the Lion Lane School for Early Learning and Housman Elementary. 

Angelica went back to school at Lone Star Community College, where she received an associates degree in teaching four years ago. In May, she received the bachelor’s degree in Teaching and Learning, Mathematics 4-8, from the University of Houston.

“When I was required to do my observations for my education courses, I immediately chose SBISD as my first choice because of how welcoming my daughters’ teachers had made me feel. I visited several schools in the district and the more I got to observe, the more I knew I wanted to one day work in SBISD,” Angelica says.

“When I was offered a position at Spring Woods Middle School I was beyond excited. I knew I was home!” Angelica’s mother, a cosmetology instructor, is her inspiration in teaching. Her mom taught a man who is legally blind to cut hair professionally. “I knew I wanted to teach and reach the lives of students when I saw the progression of a legally blind student obtain his cosmetology license. My mother dedicated all of her spare time and effort to teach him the cosmetology trade,” she says.

“She believed in him when others didn’t. She changed his life, and she helped him prove that anything is possible. I knew then that I wanted to do the same, and that I wanted to be a teacher.”

For more inspirational stories about educators in SBISD, visit our I Am SBISD Video Playlist. Go there now >>

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