MERCEDES — Time for a break. A very long one.
Marla Guerra, who has served as superintendent of South Texas Independent School District for 17 years, is looking forward to quality time with family during her retirement.
“My husband is already retired,” said Guerra, who announced her decision to leave the district last month.
“We’ve got two children and six grandchildren, they’re still pretty young,” she said. “Quality time with them I think is so important.”
Guerra began her career in education more than 40 years ago in Edinburg. From there she went to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district.
“That was most of my career,” she said. “That’s where I moved up from a teacher through the ranks to assistant superintendent.”
Guerra, who has even worked at the university level, described the joy of working with students, especially the shy ones who haven’t had the same opportunities as others to achieve literacy.
“When you see them learn how to read, you see them with that aha experience when they get to see things they’ve never seen before, it’s so rewarding for me,” she said. “They become thirsty for more information and they become life-long learners.”
Guerra took over the leadership role at STISD in 2001. She will remain on board until the district finds her successor.
Over the years, she’s derived particular satisfaction from seeing her pre-kindergarten students come back as parents.
“That is just awesome to me to see how they turned out and the importance of an education,” she said. “They felt like I made such a difference in their lives. That is so profound for me.”
Guerra has always worked for the benefit of youths. She started her professional life as a social worker.
“I was very young when I went into social work and in child protective services we have to investigate possible abuse,” she said. “I had to remove children from their homes and put them in foster care because they were in danger.”
Such painful work soon took a toll on her and after two years she needed a change.
“I thought, ‘I want to make a difference but I want to make a difference in another area,’” she said. “The transition to education was very easy for me to do.”
She believes, however, the experience gave her powerful tools in education.
“It’s really enabled me to look beyond just the educational part into the whole child and into the background that they have,” she said. “I think those skills have been just so useful to me in my various roles as an educator.”
It’s been a joy, and she isn’t done yet.
“I don’t want to lose touch with education,” she said. “I want to be connected somehow either as a volunteer or as a consultant, something I could do but wouldn’t demand all of my time.”
Nevertheless, she looks forward to more down time with family and traveling.
“We have different areas that we want to see like the Eastern Seaboard,” she said. “We want to go to national parks, possibly go to Europe.”