For Eric Benson, transforming student lives has had different meanings over his 38 years as a physical education teacher at Bishop Arts Steam Academy. Several of his former students are now leading life-changing careers of their own, including Diana Nunez, a proud Dallas ISD graduate who has spent over two decades working as a teacher, principal and executive director in the district.
“We knew early on that Diana was going to be something special, just like everyone else in her family,” Benson said. “I’m so happy for her and all of her siblings, the direction that they’ve gone and all the things they have accomplished.”
Benson and Nunez first met when Nunez was in sixth grade, but their connection did not stop when she transitioned into seventh grade. Nunez was followed in school by her younger brother and sisters, so Benson spent another eight years getting to know her family through the students in his class. As the siblings grew older, they began inviting their old coach to their graduations and some even to their weddings.
“I always enjoyed going to see their graduations,” Benson said. ”Afterward, their parents would invite me over to celebrate, eat dinner and enjoy all the other festivities. I never left hungry and was always in a good mood. I still appreciate that to this day.”
After working as a teacher herself, Nunez has a new appreciation for everything Benson did for her family and still does for so many students. He always went above and beyond to ensure his students could participate in different sports and stepped up to lead after-school leagues, she said.
“All these years later, he is still making sure there are great opportunities for his students,” Nunez said. “Teachers go through hundreds of students, so the fact that teachers like Coach Benson still try to make those connections and show up and go to events, it’s so special.”
The two of them have stayed in touch by running into each other over the years at district events, but they have also maintained a positive personal connection. For example, Benson drives by Nunez’s parents’ house every day on his way home from work and makes sure to stop and say hello.
“I’m just so proud and touched to be a small part of this family’s lives,” Benson said. “That’s what we’re all about in Dallas ISD—making these positive connections with our students and seeing them grow and become successful adults like her entire family.”
“This Is Home has a different meaning for those of us who have been with the district for a long time,” Nunez agreed. “Throughout the years, Coach Benson has always been very supportive of my family. When we invited him, he would show up every time. I’m really thankful for that.”