HARLINGEN — “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Beatrice Cruz extends that message to everyone — her students at Zavala Elementary School, fellow teachers, and fellow volunteers on the Texas PTA Board of Directors.

“It’s all over the walls, it’s on the bulletin boards, it’s on gifts that I give to students,” said Cruz, who has just been elected to a second term on the PTA board, this time as secretary.

“I feel I was elected because I am a sincere advocate for all students, for all children, which is what the mission of Texas PTA is all about,” Cruz said. “I work hard to provide opportunities for all children and I stand by that.”

Cruz, 42, has been an educator in the Harlingen school district 20 years; she’s been at Zavala for 18 years and currently teaches fifth grade.

“What I enjoy most about teaching is the relationships that I get to build with my students because every student is different,” she said. “They all bring different things to the classroom, so it’s very enjoyable to be able to learn the differences that are in my students.”

She also appreciates the chance to mold futures, hence the motto “be the change.”

“The students know that front and backwards,” she said. “We practice it in class. We’ve done classroom service projects. We learn about civic issues, we study history. I’m a reading teacher but I incorporate history into reading, and so we study examples on how to be the change.”

She’s developed a philosophy about change in the last several years that has become her passion.

“It’s not enough for me by myself to be the change,” she said. “If I’m really going to make an impact on my students, I have to teach them to change so that they can teach others to change. That’s the only way I can do it. I can’t do it alone.”

And she’s not doing it alone. As a member of the state PTA board she works with many people with one goal in mind: student success.

“I work with a team of adults across the state of Texas in all areas and professions, all volunteers,” she said. “We work to promote advocacy and family engagement. We support our local PTAs at every level, and we encourage membership because we are providing a voice for our children.”

Cruz also spoke excitedly about her work with Raise Your Hand Texas this year.

“That was a chance to involve parents and bring them in to the voting process and we had a candidate forum,” she said. “One of my big messages as a teacher is we also have to be part of our community and serve our community outside of the classroom.”