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Brenda Ochoa, La Joya Independent School District’s Elementary Teacher of the Year, has always loved school. She said she remembers rushing to catch the school bus every morning. She was unconditionally devoted to school.
“The gravel road that separated my residence in Peñitas and the yellow school bus stretched out to what seemed like infinity,” says Ochoa.
Her mother’s voice would linger in her thoughts throughout the day, “Always try your best, mija.”
Ochoa grew up as the second oldest of seven children. By being the second child, she says she developed patience, listening skills and multi-tasking attributes.
Her parents knew the value of education was imperative. They relayed the message well and exhibited their support by caring about her academic achievements and extracurricular activities she participated in, says Ochoa.
She says the events that surround her educational experience and atmosphere created by LJISD educators motivated her to become the absolute best teacher she could be.
She developed a love of writing at an early age and found her love of being in front of people in the second grade. Her father purchased a typewriter and she was quick to work on an oral presentation in second grade at Memorial Elementary. She gave a presentation on ballet, decked out in a ballerina’s costume.
“It was at that specific moment that I realized I was destined for a career in front of an audience.”
Ochoa has had success teaching writing, her other love. As a first year fourth grade teacher, she had three students score a perfect four on the TAKS writing exam. One of those students had been retained in third grade. The following year, she had six students score a four.
“I put my heart into what I do,” says Ochoa. This is portrayed in her classroom on a daily basis.
She says her “hands-on approach” style to teaching makes her unique. She is versatile and is willing to learn and approach any grade level without reservations.
Involved in the community at Peñitas, Ochoa said she never thought Peñitas would be a city that would have its own library. She remembers having to go to Speer Memorial Library in Mission if she needed to research anything for school. This is no longer a requirement for students growing up in Peñitas today, she said.
In 2009, she was asked to help make plans for the library. She served as board secretary for the Peñitas Public Library and had a vision to create a library open to the public with services equivalent to existing libraries. Ochoa has enjoyed introducing guest speakers, hosting community nights and raising funds for academic scholarships. She plans to continue to promote literacy through her library involvement and as a teacher.
Ochoa also sponsors and coaches two UIL speaking events at her campus. She has sponsored storytelling since 2009 and recently took on coaching oral reading. She said she incorporates her own UIL experiences into coaching her students.
Ochoa believes every child wants to learn. It’s an innate quality that resides within and can ignite as a spark, she says. Her job is to light that spark and create a loving, safe, adventurous and enthusiastic experience for all of her students. She makes their achievement her top priority.
“I absolutely love to teach,” she says. “I am my students’ biggest fan, and I tell that to my students every day. I am their number one supporter.”
Ochoa said she takes ownership over everything she does and takes her responsibility to another level. She incorporates her love of music, color, dialogue, and the importance of cooperative grouping on a daily basis in her classroom. The style of teaching affects students and her goal is to create a classroom that fosters a sense of community and vibrancy that makes the learning process challenging and entertaining.
Ochoa believes there are several issues in the public education setting that hinder or can make education a negative experience. Among those issues are bullying, parents’ indifferences toward education, dropout rate, poor academic achievements and student non-compliance. She believes though that bullying is a top priority.
Ochoa believes teachers should be ambidextrous and enthusiastic with what they do. Learning should never cease. The best teachers are also students, she says.
Ochoa is a La Joya High School graduate. She has an associate of arts in interdisciplinary studies from South Texas College and a bachelor of arts communication in journalism from the University of Texas-Pan American.
She has taught in LJISD since 2009, teaching kinder, fourth and second grades. She is currently a first grade teacher at John F. Kennedy Elementary.
She says the secret of being a phenomenal teacher is treating each child as if she is yours.
“It is no longer sufficient for us to teach to the point they master a subject,” she said. “We must go far beyond this and teach student skills that will enable them to teach themselves.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.