By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
The song goes: “School days, school days, good old golden rule days…reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – all put together to make you sick” – LOL! I first read this so-called song, when I was a kid, in an Archie comic book. It reflected my sentiments exactly. Most kids, even today, are probably lamenting the end of summer vacation, the end of getting up late from bed, the end of endless summer days in which kids would finally fall into bed, exhausted from a full day of play and cavorting. But, no more. From now until next summer, it’s all about learning. Well, we all know how kids feel about the beginning of school, but, what about the teachers themselves?
For Patsy Orona, a second-grade teacher at Vista Hills Elementary, it’s all a matter of educating her young pupils. Not only that, but (gasp), she’s looking forward to it. “I miss my kids, two months vacation is more than enough for me. I’m ready to get back to work helping them learn about the world. They’re so young, so unencumbered – their little minds are like sponges, they soak up everything you teach them and they’re eager for more.” Orona practices what she preaches in that her oldest daughter, April, 24, is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. Her son, Alex, 19, is already attending UT El Paso and plays on the band. Her youngest daughter, Christina, will also attend UT El Paso, or some other institution of higher learning.
“Mentally and physically, I am ready,” Orona said. “Summer is good, but, I’m ready to go back. My biggest worry right now is getting my classroom ready. That means setting up the tables and chairs, decorating the doors and bulletin boards, just making the classroom a welcoming environment.” Not only that, but, teachers must go to workshops and other seminars to prepare for the new school year, the new rules that must be followed. Orona said that, using her own money, she prepares little welcome gifts for her kids. She doesn’t mind spending the money, because she knows the district can’t afford it. Last year she spent $400 of her own money, but considers it money well spent. For her, the new school year starts on July 27.
Orona is well aware of the problems the school districts of El Paso, Ysleta, and Socorro are having, but, she doesn’t really pay attention to the politics. Her job is to teach the children, so that her focus is on that. “Besides, I’ve got a great administration at my school. We’re led by Principal Mauricio Batres. He’s caring and attentive and very supportive.”
Linda Johnston, who will teach first graders this year, echoes Orona’s sentiments in that all her energy must be dedicated to the kids. She teaches at Loma Verde Elementary in the Socorro ISD. She too is aware of some of the problems the district has faced, but, it doesn’t faze her because her main concern is to educate the youngsters. “I’ve been teaching for 16 years, and have taught from sixth grade to first grade. Well, this is my first year with first graders, but, I’m looking forward to it because they must depend on me if they are going to have a good future.”
Although students in Socorro don’t start schooI until early next week, teachers are already preparing with workshops on staff development, and other necessities. “I feel well-rested, ready for the new school year,” Johnston said. “I learned a lot last year, teaching older kids, but, teaching first-graders is a whole different story. Teaching older kids, by the time I get them, they already know how to read. But, it’s different with young children. I have to start from scratch, teaching them to read, teaching them about Math, and other subjects with which they are not always familiar. Some are, because their parents already may have started them on that path, but, not everyone does that. However, parents are very helpful, I love their involvement.”
Johnston said she started her teaching career rather late, at age 39. She doesn’t like the politics, but that’s not really her concern. She knows what’s going on, but, her focus has to be on the children. “I’m responsible to the kids, and I do appreciate it when the parents get involved, it’s good that they have a voice. I have a great deal of trust in the administration, because all the support staff is very cooperative, very concerned. My responsibility is to focus on the kids 100 percent.”