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Melissa Vazquez '10

Melissa graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2010 with her Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She shared with us, "The UIW Teacher Education program was both rigorous and impactful. I learned about curriculum, behavior management, and how to teach, but I learned about teaching the whole child both academically, socially, and emotionally. I whole-heartedly believe UIW prepared me very well."

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Catching Up with Cardinals

Melissa Vazquez '10

Dreeben School of Education

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Q:   Can you share the moment you realized that you wanted to be a teacher?

A:   I first began at UIW as a nursing major, when my husband and I had our daughter, I took some time off due to his deployment. To my excitement, when he returned his assigned duty station was San Antonio. I knew I wanted to return to UIW immediately and I knew I wanted to shift gears to education. Both nursing and education are fields that serve the community and families. I always knew I wanted a profession that was bigger than myself. There’s always that one teacher that stands out while growing up, and I remembered how she made me feel loved and comfortable to take the risk of learning. I wanted to be able to be that for students.

Q:   How did the UIW Teacher Education program help prepare you for your role as a teacher?

A:   The UIW Teacher Education program was both rigorous and impactful. The program courses I took enabled us to learn about education on a deeper level. We had the opportunity to learn about the different theories of education along with various educational settings. Not only did I learn about curriculum, behavior management, and how to teach, but I learned about teaching the whole child both academically, socially, and emotionally. I whole-heartedly believe UIW prepared me very well.

Q:   What is your favorite memory from the Teacher Education program at UIW?

A:   I have so many great memories of classes and professors from UIW. Dr. Martinez, Dr. Fike, Dr. Campos, and Dr. Moore were all extraordinary professors. During one of our courses, Dr. Moore modeled read-aloud for our class. I distinctly remember how animated, and entertaining she was when reading aloud to our class. Everyone was enthralled with the book and with her reading. Her reading was so engaging, high-spirited and enthusiastic, that you could feel her love for learning and it was contagious.

Q:   How long have you been working in education?

A:   Since graduating in 2010, I have worked in various fields of education. Due to my husband’s reassignment, we moved out of state. In Hawaii, I worked

as lead Pre-K teacher, and helped pilot the Pre-K Strong Beginnings program at our duty station. When we returned to Texas, I taught kinder, first grade, and 4th grade. In the classroom, there were always students who struggled to read despite interventions and tutoring. I always sought out ways to reach their needs. Doing so, led me to the path of the world of dyslexia.

 

Q:   Tell us about your current position/job.

A:   Currently, I am a Dyslexia facilitator at my current school district in the Dallas area. Because I wanted to learn the best ways to meet my students’ needs, I pursued my Master’s Degree and became a Certified Academic Language Therapist as well as a certified Language Dyslexia Therapist through the state of Texas. As a facilitator, I mentor, support, and lead a cohort of dyslexia teachers. I assist in a variety of ways from planning curriculum, and therapy sessions, to assisting in ARDs, and in whatever way possible. I also provide dyslexia therapy to students at several campuses as well as educate campuses about dyslexia and dyslexia risk factors.

Q:   What do you love the most about your current job?

A:   I enjoy assisting in building and strengthening teachers capacity and knowledge of dyslexia and showing them the strategies to help their students. As a certified academic Language therapist, I have specialized in addressing the unique challenges faced by students with Dyslexia. My approach to education is grounded in the belief that every learner deserves an opportunity to thrive. Through a combination of experience, specialized certifications, and a genuine passion for fostering academic success, I am dedicated to empowering students with the skills and confidence they need to excel. My role is to not only provide the students with the skills to be readers and writers, but also empower them to foster their strengths and advocate for their families and for their needs.

Q:   What helps you avoid teacher burnout?

A:   Teacher burnout is real, and it can be a struggle. As an educator, you are always growing, learning, and finding ways to learn strategies and prepare just the right lessons to reach your students. Despite the curriculum preparation, as an educator I always wanted to dig deeper and create the

most engaging and rigorous lessons and activities. It is very important to find the balance. The profession of education is also that of support, nurturing, and in all accounts a very selfless profession because in many instances even during your off time, you see things for your students that you want to buy or you think to yourself, “Hey that’d be great to use for this, or I hope this kiddo is doing ok because they seemed distracted in class.” I also think it’s important for students to know that teachers are human too and need their family time as well. I would use teacher apps to keep in touch with families but I would also let them know what the off hours were and that I would get back to them as soon as I could. I always found that it was helpful to take every opportunity during contract hours to work. Sometimes, I would skip conference with a bestie teacher in order to utilize that time for my classroom needs. It is very easy to get swamped, so staying ahead of dates and planning is very beneficial.

Q:   Do you have any advice for anyone considering a career in teaching?

A:    I would encourage those considering teaching to find a grade level or subject area that they enjoy. In the beginning, it can be tricky to find your way and it can take time to find just the right grade level or subject area. It’s important to not give up and in time, sooner than they think, they will find what works for them.

A great supportive team, campus, and administrative team can make a difference in your teaching experience. It can be very easy to fall into the “basement” as motivational speaker, Dr. Adolph Brown would call it. Don’t fall into the negativity or into the nitpicking that can happen with teachers. Be a “balcony” teacher. Be a teacher that is positive, encouraging, flexible, and eager to grow. Always find a way to find common ground with your colleagues and cheer everyone on. Attitudes can be contagious, and I always intend to spread a smile and a laugh or two with both students and colleagues.

Being in education and my love for learning and teaching helps me keep in mind that this field really allows me to be part of something bigger than myself. Education is an integral part of life for people. It’s our job to help

kids grow, learn, and develop a love for learning, which in turn sets a foundation for their future.

Q:   What are your career goals for the next five years?

A:   I will soon complete my certification as an Educational Diagnostician, enhancing my ability to comprehensively assess and understand the individual learning needs of students. This certification equips me with the tools to create tailored educational interventions that address specific challenges and optimize learning outcomes. As a Dyslexia Facilitator, I want to continue to learn how to best meet our students’ needs. With new legislation happening with dyslexia, I find it imperative to know how students are assessed and with the ability to assess students through a Full Individual Evaluation, I can truly know the students’ strengths and weaknesses both cognitively and academically.

Also, a proud milestone in my professional journey will be to complete my training to become a Qualified Instructor of the Multisensory Teaching Approach (MTA) in the next 2 years. This qualification reflects my commitment to employing evidence-based and effective teaching methods, ensuring that each student receives a personalized and impactful education. I will be able to train and support educators, practitioners, and certified academic language therapists to learn explicit, systematic instruction to serve students.

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