New teacher makes big impression

Tammy Escalante was named Teacher of the Year at Harlingen School of Health Professions. Courtesy Photo

HARLINGEN — She’s a natural.

Tammy Escalante has only taught for four years, but the Harlingen School of Health Professions has already named her Teacher of the Year.

“ To be honest I was just in shock over the weekend,” she said just a few days after learning about the recognition.

“ It’s a really great opportunity,” said Escalante, 49, who teaches algebra to eighth and ninth graders.

“ It kind of leaves me a little bit emotional,” she said. “Working with HCISD, we’re always looking for ways to develop our teachers. Being Teacher of the Year offers an opportunity to work at the district level, special projects to work to improve the district.”

She doesn’t know what working on special projects at the district level will look like, yet, but she’s looking forward to finding out.

“ I’m really excited about it,” she said, joy ringing clear in her voice.

Escalante, a married mother of two sons, brings life experience as well as education to her students.

She graduated in 2016 from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with a bachelor’s degree in math. And in December she earned her master’s in educational leadership.

“ That degree focuses on leadership skills, but there is so much in the degree that is very relevant in your classroom,” she said. “There is much that you can begin practicing.”

Escalante has spent her entire teaching career at HSHP.

“ I actually was hired by the district the weekend before I graduated,” she said. “I graduated on a Friday and I started working on Monday. It was such a huge blessing.”

Why, one might ask, would someone return to school and begin a second career in her 40s? A better question might be, Why not?

“ It was something you know, every year, it would be in the back of my mind to go ahead and make that step into higher education,” she said. “I was a church administrator for 10 years and I taught Sunday school to children.”

She also volunteered with a program called Girls in Action at First Baptist Church in Los Fresnos. The program is part of the Women’s Ministry Union. Obviously making a difference in the lives of young people has been an important part of Escalante’s life. So it seemed only a matter of time she’d continue her education to become, well, an educator.

“ Teaching just seemed like something I would enjoy doing,” she said. “Whenever I finally decided to move forward with my husband’s blessing I thought, ‘What am I going to teach?’ And I just remembered I enjoyed math.”

She’s not sure why she has been named Teacher of the Year, but she offered some observations.

“ I would like to think it has to do with collaboration with other teachers, always seeking to share skills I am developing and have learned through collaborating with other teachers,” she said.

It becomes clear in reviewing the course of her life she enjoys helping people, a joy she brings to her students.

“ Being a teacher gives you such a great platform to do it,” she said. “And teaching math to students is such a pleasure because that’s what I enjoy, and especially seeing students begin to enjoy it themselves.”

She pointed out a familiar resistance to mathematics suffered by many students, which she sees as an opportunity.

“ It’s very enjoyable to see them begin to think, ‘Hey, this isn’t too bad,’” she said. “I also like just being able to work with students on a daily basis and mentoring them.”

twhitehead@valleystar.com