UT alumna Alejandra Ortega recently received the Houston ISD Teacher of the Year just three years after graduating.
Ortega teaches eighth grade math at the same middle school she attended when she was younger – McReynolds Middle School.
“As an elementary school student, I was bullied and did not have a teacher advocate,” Ortega said. “This changed when I entered McReynolds Middle School. Through their support and that of the rest of my teachers and fellow students, I finally felt accepted and celebrated for who I was. This became such a crucial piece as to why I returned to McReynolds as a teacher.”
Later on, when Ortega became a college student, she was heavily involved in both the UT and Austin communities in terms of education.
“I can gladly say that every semester that I attended UT, I was involved with a campus in Austin one way or another,” Ortega said. “I had a variety of experiences in several classrooms during my time at UT, which I believe helped prepared me to be the teacher I am today.”
One of the organizations she was involved in was UTeach Outreach, a program that gives students the opportunity to be assistant teachers in local schools. Garrett Mott, physics and math junior, is a peer ambassador with UTeach.
“UTeach is a great program because it couples not only content knowledge, but also pedagogical knowledge, and really caters to the specific skills needed to teach STEM content,” Mott said.
Math senior Lacey Campbell said UTeach has provided her with the strategies she will use once she is officially a teacher.
“Through all of this experience, I have learned that I am and want to continue to be the teacher that gets kids excited about understanding math and (makes) it attainable for all students,” Campbell said.
Ortega is working on her master’s degree at UT-Arlington and said she hopes to one day be “considered a leader of leaders who empowers her fellow administrators and teacher leaders.”
“Teachers are ultimately tasked with not only preparing students for the next grade level or state examination but to be the future members and leaders of our communities,” Ortega said. ”We must ensure that the work we design for them prepares them to do so while empowering who they currently are.”