McAllen school district welcomes, preps new teachers

Attendees of McAllen ISD's teacher orientation listen in Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. (Courtesy Photo)

McALLEN — The McAllen Independent School District welcomed its newest educators to the family Tuesday with the district’s annual new teacher orientation.

Tuesday’s orientation marked the first time since 2019 that the district was able to host the event in-person due to the pandemic.

“Today we are having what McAllen ISD likes to call the New Teacher Institute,” Veronica Guerra, professional learning strategist said at the event Tuesday morning. “Every year when we get new teacher hires — whether they are first-year teachers or prior year teachers, as long as they are new teachers to McAllen ISD — we host the New Teacher Institute which takes place over four days.”

Around 111 first-year teachers and educators new to the district congregated in the cafeteria of Alonzo De Leon Middle School, along with all of the principals from each of the district’s campuses, department heads and the school board.

“It’s exciting that we are able to meet face to face right now,” Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos, assistant superintendent for instructional services, said Tuesday. “You can’t compare the socialization, the love that we have for each other, the excitement that we have to just share minutes with the staff — you can’t have that virtually. It seems like we were missing that.”

Tuesday marked the first day of the four-day orientation for new teachers before all teachers report back on Aug. 9. De Hoyos said that the orientation serves as an opportunity for the new teachers to integrate into the McAllen ISD family.

The new teachers were welcomed by Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez and Board President Sam Saldivar prior to breaking into various sessions aimed at acclimating them to the district’s policies.

“It’s one of those things where those of you who were in athletics, when you’re in the locker room before the game and you can hear the band playing, you can smell the popcorn — you know it’s almost time to go out. That’s where we are right now,” Gonzalez said. “We’re at that point in the game where it’s almost time to buckle our chin straps and rock and roll. And we’re doing this in the midst of a world pandemic.

“One of the things that we’ve done in McAllen is that we’ve proven that we can maneuver, we can call audibles and make adjustments on the fly and produce quality results. You’re part of that now, but you’ve got to get ready.”

Salome Moya attended the orientation as she prepares to enter her first year teaching fifth grade at Dr. Carlos E. Castañeda Elementary School.

“My expectations are set for myself to do the best that I can for my students,” Moya said. “I don’t expect anything less from them than just wanting to learn and being a little hesitant about the situation with COVID, but that’s what we’re here for — to learn more about the situation and get better.”

Daniel Elizondo is also preparing for his first year teaching as he returns to his alma mater at James “Nikki” Rowe High School as low brass instructor with the band.

“It’s a dream come true,” Elizondo said. “It sounds cliche, but it was something that I dreamt of doing when I was 15 and I entered Rowe High School. The position that I’m holding now is a position that inspired me to go into music, study it, and become an educator myself.”

Elizondo said that he hopes to share his love and passion for music with his students. He said that he is excited to learn and gain the necessary tools from the orientation as he prepares to enter the classroom, or band hall.

“I know that I have a lot to learn,” Elizondo said. “I hope that they can mold us here and prepare us for the school year. I know it’s going to be a challenging task as a teacher. It’s not going to be easy, but I hope that here we can have the reassurance that what we’re doing is for the community itself.”