Samuell High School ECHS sophomore Israel Piña traces his love for teaching to an assignment where he created a lesson plan and taught a whole class.
His dream is to work as an educator, put himself through law school and eventually become an immigration lawyer. On Nov. 13, Piña took a big step toward reaching that goal by signing a letter of intent to become a teacher and return to work in Dallas ISD after he earns a bachelor’s degree. Through the Samuell High School Early College High School (ECHS) program, Piña can earn 60 hours of college credit–or an associate degree–tuition free while still in high school.
“The main reason that I wanted to start early and enroll in Samuell’s early college high school program is because I will be a first-generation college student,” Piña said. “I want to get as much done as possible early, and have as little student debt as possible.”
Piña was one of 30 Samuell ECHS freshmen and sophomores who signed letters of intent to return to teach in Dallas ISD. Personnel from Dallas ISD’s Human Capital Management (HCM) and a Texas Tech professor were on-hand at the event.
Melissa Simon, who earned her high school diploma and associate degree in 2016–when she was 17 years old–inspired students at the event. Simon was among the first graduating class to complete Samuell’s ECHS program.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than going back into my neighborhood and being able to teach students that look like me, that are like me,” Simon told students. “I was once in your shoes and went through the same thing that you are going through.”
Simon has been teaching fifth-grade science at Annie Webb Blanton Elementary for the past two years. After graduating from high school, Simon enrolled in the TechTeach program at Texas Tech. The university’s College of Education offers this accelerated teaching program and has partnered with several Dallas ISD schools with ECHS programs. Only a year-and-a-half later, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree, a TEA teaching certificate and real classroom experience.
“You too will also be in my place,” Simon added. “By being here, you’re starting a new pipeline of young, successful educators. It’s the small steps that you’re taking right now toward your goal that will end up making it a reality.”
Dallas ISD HCM Deputy Chief John Vega gave the closing remarks. He highlighted the starting pay for Dallas ISD teachers and stipends and incentives available for bilingual educators. He also mentioned the career opportunities for teachers who demonstrate leadership and dedication. Vega, who is the former Samuell High School principal, closed his remarks with a lesson on resilience.
“Pain is always temporary,” he said. “Failure is only temporary, and that feeling is going to go away. But when you quit, that stays forever.”