SLICE of LIFE: Alias Ortega

HARLINGEN — “I can explain that a little better.”

That thought rolled through Alias Ortega’s mind as his fifth grade teacher discussed a lesson, and apparently he was right.

“I started helping a couple of kids,” said Alias, now 25. “Some of the kids around me were like, ‘Oh, I get it now.’” From that springboard began a trajectory that has taken him to Early College High School where he teaches biology.

“I think the best thing that I enjoy about teaching is building relationships with the kids,” Alias said. “It’s been an amazing part of my life.”

He demonstrated that connection recently when he helped a group of high school students in a community service project.

“They came together to put that community garden for the STEM Squared Academy and it’s going to be 100 percent automated,” he said. “It waters itself, it takes out weeds, it tells you when the vegetables are ready, it does everything.”

Alias also makes that connection through serving as a sponsor for the engineering club at Early College High School.

“We start off with SeaPerch and that usually takes about a month,” he said. “After SeaPerch we dive into FTC (FIRST Technical Challenge) which is actual robots on the ground.”

SeaPerch involves building robots that achieve a challenge under water. Toward the end of the year the organization engages in rocketry. Throughout the year, the engineering club also helps other organizations and engages in various community service projects.

“I think when you take the time to get to know the kids it really allows them to shine,” he said. “And so I think a lot of that is really just interacting with the kids on a daily basis because they have so much to offer. We just have to get them started.”

Alias is beginning his third year at ECHS. He just earned his master’s in educational leadership from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and plans to apply for a PhD program next year. Ultimately, he’d like to become a superintendent.