UHV education alumni strive to support students

At a time when educators have encountered new challenges in how to successfully teach children during a pandemic, University of Houston-Victoria education alumni are more motivated than ever to be a positive influence in the lives of youth.

Ashley Reyna

For Ashley Reyna, a passion for teaching is something that has always been inside her that only continues to grow. With National Teacher Appreciation Week from May 2-8, Reyna is reminded even more of the importance of the role of a teacher.

“To me, an educator is one of the first people who can have a positive impact on children,” she said. “An early childhood teacher serves as a stepping stone for everyone in the community because those teachers help students at the beginning of their education.”

Reyna, a Harlingen native, will graduate this month with a Bachelor of Science in education in early childhood through sixth grade and will join hundreds of UHV education alumni.

“Educators contribute to our communities in critical ways by instructing children,” said Rachel Martinez, interim dean of the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “Although the pandemic has brought challenges, our education alumni have stepped up to those challenges. National Teacher Appreciation Week is an opportunity to recognize and appreciate all the work teachers do in their communities.”

Rachel Martinez

Reyna’s first experience taking care of younger children was when she was in fifth grade. A daycare center asked for volunteers to help with the younger children, and Reyna signed up. The experience was fun, and Reyna knew then that she wanted to become an early childhood teacher when she grew up.

As time went on, she also helped take care of her younger sister, who was a special education student. The experience taught her how patience and the ability to understand children play a key part in learning. During her time at UHV, Reyna also was a leader outside of the classroom. She played first base for the UHV Jaguars softball team and was a senator in the UHV Student Government Association.

During the fall, Reyna was a student teacher at Hopkins Elementary, where she taught kindergarteners and created science lesson plans. Most of her lessons were based on hands-on learning techniques or teacher-assisted learning, such as using food coloring in water to learn about water and oil properties or a stuffed animal to help understand locations.

As a student teacher during a pandemic, Reyna had to first observe educators teaching online, and then help students adjust to being back in the classroom as more students were allowed on campus.

“It’s important to remember that children have bad days, too, and to let them know that it’s going to be OK,” she said. “My teacher mentor did a great job of telling me that because kids do have feelings that change day to day. We must be prepared to support them on those days. I honestly believe that people who become teachers do it because they want to. It’s more of a rewarding service than just a job.”

UHV education alumnus Geoff Alldred agrees. After working in jobs outside of education for almost 15 years, a profession that helped others and made a positive influence in his community was exactly what he was looking for a few years ago. Alldred had worked in restaurants and later as a car salesman and often felt unfulfilled at the end of his work days.

Geoff Alldred

Alldred always had loved reading and writing, and he decided to get his degree from UHV in 2018. He appreciated the smaller classes because of the opportunities to receive more help from faculty. He also was able to build rapport with his peers as he shared most of his classes with the same students. He graduated in December with a Bachelor of Arts in English with his teacher certification.

“I knew I wanted to teach English because of the creativity involved,” he said. “There’s not one right answer. Everything is open to interpretation.”

Alldred started this year as a full-time teacher at Mayde Creek High School, where he teaches freshman English courses. One of the aspects of his job that he enjoys is seeing students have an “ah ha” moment when learning about high school-level English. The students in Alldred’s classes are the youngest in the school, but they already are expected to start making decisions that may affect them for the rest of their lives, he said.

One of the projects in his classes includes making a time capsule. Each student is tasked with writing a memoir. The assignment helps students see their lives almost like in snapshots, such as understanding what stressors exist, what their favorite movies and music are, and what they would like to do after high school. Alldred likes to tell his students to apply themselves to different extracurricular and athletic activities as well as try out different hobbies and crafts to discover what might interest them.

“Every teacher is there at school because he or she cares about the youth, the future, the community and helping people gain as much knowledge as possible,” Alldred said. “We are here because we care.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco