New batch of McAllen teachers welcomed in virtual orientation

Luis Del Rio | Courtesy photo

New teachers were welcomed to a new era in education, and under one of the most stressful circumstances in decades.

On Aug. 4, McAllen schools officially welcomed 59 new teachers to the school district in a virtual event, befitting the current circumstances requiring online learning for the 2019-20 school year due to COVID-19 health precautions.

Luis Del Rio recently graduated from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and will launch his teaching career as a science teacher at McAllen High School.

“I feel like I have gotten the full experience, even though it was virtual,” he said. “I don’t feel like McAllen has missed a beat.”

Del Rio will be teaching biology to freshmen, and chemistry to sophomores and juniors — courses that heavily depend on hands-on, experiential learning. Most of the lessons and demonstrations he will be delivering this year will be through videos, which students could join live, or watch at a later time.

“These are challenging times, but I think most of my colleagues and other new teachers that I have spoken with are pretty optimistic, and are ready to set up to the plate,” he said.

Claudia Lopez is also a new teacher to the McAllen district, though she has 15 years of teaching under her belt.

Lopez previously taught at Drs. Reed & Mock Elementary, and in a couple weeks, will start her career with McAllen ISD as a fourth grade teacher at Blanca Sanchez Elementary.

“I am excited, I really am,” she said. “I thought I would be nervous, but I am really excited to learn new things and meet new people.”

Lopez said since she taught at PSJA for longer than a decade, she knew her students well and was used to having siblings of former students in her classes. This year, she is joining a new district during extraordinary circumstances.

“The benefit I am seeing with this is that McAllen was very well prepared,” she noted. “The kids were prepared for using Google Classroom, they have their own laptops.”

During orientation, Lopez said the new teachers were taught about the district’s human resources department through a Kahoot multiple-choice game, and plans

to integrate in her own lessons soon.

Keeping students engaged online will be a challenge, she said, so interactive games is how she is hoping to boost excitement among her class.

She said another obstacle of remote learning is fostering a connection with her students. Lopez said strong relationships with students are the key to a well-functioning classroom.

“I am trying to imagine how that will be through Google Classroom,” she said. “How open they will be to speak to me, how I am going to win them over. I usually have that one-on-one with them, this is going to be a bit tougher, but I think I am going to win them over.”

Lopez had a small library set

up in her classroom last year, and said she recently added a reading area for her students, with pillows and other comfortable places to read. She loves watching her students read to each other, a sight she might not be able to see this year.

“The kids would love to sit there and read books, and read to one another, so that’s one things I miss about being in a classroom,” she said.