Harlingen CISD students, teachers, administrators begin new school year

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Students in the aspiring teacher pathway at Harlingen Collegiate High School participate in a team building exercise on Monday, Aug. 14. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — The halls once quiet through the hot summer have now awakened with the arrival of students both eager and reluctant to begin a new routine.

“It’s a great day at HCISD,” said Belinda Reininger, president of the Harlingen school board.

“We’ve got our little ones back all the way up to our 12th-graders,” Reininger said. “We’re at Harlingen Collegiate High School. This campus is just a very unique campus. Kids being able to take UTRGV classes as well as their core classes. We’ve got excited teachers and excited principals.”

She and Interim Superintendent Veronica Kortan visited UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High School on Monday morning as part of larger district-wide effort by school board members and administrators to visit all campuses on the first day of the 2023-2024 school year.

“Our first day of the school year we want to make sure that all of us celebrate our campuses,” Kortan said. “So, every campus, we’ll have our senior team and a board member visiting them. We also want to extend our welcome.”

Students indeed felt the energy and the significance of the first day of school. Maggie Aguinaga, 17, was experiencing not only the first day of school but the first day of her senior year.

“It’s very exciting and it’s also emotional because it’s my last year being with my friends,” she said.

At Bowie Elementary, Lori Romero, assistant superintendent for elementary and middle school education, was ecstatic to see classes start.

“We have everything very smooth, the kids are back, ready to learn, so super excited,” she said. “I’ve seen the boys and girls already working, the teachers have the classrooms ready, they’re engaged, and so they’re really busy on the first day.”

Children at Harlingen Bowie Elementary participate in a get-to-know-me exercise on the first day of school Monday, Aug. 14. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

Brianna Cortez was excited about her third year teaching. Her fifth-graders had just begun an activity that would serve as a sort of ice breaker for getting acquainted with each other.

“They’re filling out an all-about-me,” she said. “They’re discussing their all-about-me activities, their hobbies, their age.”

Her students gathered around tables answering questions and filling in lines with colors that best described them.

“I feel great seeing all the teachers and all the new students,” said Bryanah Belangel, 10, who’d just filled a page with many bright colors moving in a spiral.

“We colored it and it was like an explosion from all about me,” she said.

Mary Ann Cantu was enjoying her first day teaching sixth-grade science at Coakley Middle School.

“It’s been really good,” she said. “The kids are coming in, they are engaged, so I really really like it.”

Students in the aspiring teacher pathway at Harlingen Collegiate High School participate in a team building exercise on Monday, Aug. 14. (Travis M. Whitehead | Valley Morning Star)

Her young student Isaiah Perez, 11, was also glad to be back. It was the start of his middle school years.

“I’m most looking forward to making friends and having fun,” he said. “I’m hoping to get good grades because in elementary school I didn’t get good grades because I was talking too much.”

Back at Harlingen Collegiate, the students in Alma Hernandez’s aspiring teacher pathways class were eagerly working on a jigsaw puzzle.

“Right now, they’re working on a team building activity where one person is blindfolded and the other people have to give them directions to create a puzzle,” Hernandez said.

The students seemed to have mastered the task well and enjoyed it too.

“It was surprisingly easy,” said Kayla Martinez, 17, a senior. “They were really clear in their instructions. I’m really excited for the school year. I’ve wanted to be a teacher most of my life.”