Green leaves, plants and vines lined the first-grade classroom of Jennifer Tran as she shuffled through boxes of books. On one wall were shelves of dinosaur figurines, completing the cozy jungle atmosphere.
With the first day of classes three days away, the first-time teacher wanted to make sure her classroom was just right for her students.
“I wanted to keep the classroom simple but comfortable for the children, like a calm, safe space for them to learn,” Tran, 24, said. “That’s really important, for children to be able to learn.”
Teachers throughout the Crossroads reported back to their classrooms last week to prepare for the start of the school year this week.
This school year is special for Tran, who will be starting her first official year as a full-time teacher at DeLeon Elementary School in Victoria.
For Tran, it’s almost like her life has come full circle. She grew up as a student in the school district and graduated in 2013 from Victoria West High School.
Through a school program, she was able to get a taste of what a career in education would be like.
Tran spent her senior year of high school shadowing a teacher at Rowland Elementary during the morning hours, where she observed, assisted and learned teaching practices.
“I was really blessed to have my whole senior year of high school to do that,” Tran said. “I knew that I wanted to be in a classroom and teach.”
What is/was your favorite part about the first day of school?
Tran received her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Houston-Victoria in December 2018. During her time as a college student, Tran was able to student-teach at DeLeon Elementary, which she said has helped her get to know some of the teachers and students. Tran also served as a long-term substitute teacher at the campus after she graduated from UHV.
In addition to student teaching, Tran also worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Victoria as a youth development professional.
Tran said she loves working with kids and she enjoys learning. She said she is inspired by veteran teachers and loves hearing about different teaching practices and strategies, such as being energetic to engage students in class.
“Being a teacher is almost like performing. If you’re hyped up and excited to teach, the kids are going to be excited to learn,” Tran said.
Tran expects to have about 20 students in her class this year. Students in her class will learn a variety of subjects, including how to read and write complete sentences, how to count to 120, how to tell time and simple math. Students will also continue to learn social and procedural skills, she said.
Tran will also have an open line of communication with the parents to help blend what the child is learning at home and school, such as good behavior.
“There are other things children continue to learn in first grade, such as routines and how to behave in a classroom setting. Things like staying at their desk, walking in a line and knowing when is a good time to get up and throw their trash away,” Tran said.
Principal Selina Reyna said first grade is a pivotal point in a student’s life as children are learning how to be skillful readers.
“It’s an exciting time for children. They’re getting to the true experience of literacy,” Reyna said. “It’s not just pictures with books anymore but story structure, poetry, emotions.”
Reyna said she is excited for the staff, teachers, students and parents of DeLeon Elementary. The DeLeon community is a wonderful community, she said, and she and the teachers at the campus take pride in their job as educators.
“It’s a huge responsibility, yet it is the most joyful thing knowing that you have each family’s most precious resources in your hands. It’s our job to nurture the kids, and it’s a very rewarding job,” Reyna said. “We’re ready at DeLeon.”