The last thing on her mind was making a living in education.
“My mother’s side of the family is full of teachers, so I actually didn’t want to be a teacher when I was growing up,” Saldaña said. “I worked as a tutor during high school and college and that is what sparked my interest in education and working with children.”
Now in her seventh year as an educator, Saldaña has been named Sharyland ISD District Teacher of the Year for the elementary level. She said the reaction from her grandparents, mother and son made a huge impact on her.
Once Saldaña received the title, her 4-year-old son, Benjamin, tugged on her hand and said “I love you, mommy.” She has since been completely overwhelmed and shocked to receive the honor.
Though she was born in Stockholm, Sweden, Saldaña spent her childhood and grade-school years in Mercedes.
Saldaña graduated from Mercedes High School in 2003, earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas-Pan American and received her master’s degree from UT at Arlington in curriculum and instruction in science in May.
Saldaña has spent four years teaching mathematics, social studies and science to third graders. She just ended her third year of teaching science to fifth graders.
Community involvement with her grandmother’s organization “Women and Children on the Borderlines” has also been a priority for Saldaña over the last few years. The program connects both American and Canadian sponsors with Mexican children in need of financial support for school tuition, supplies and uniforms.
The program works with students who are making an effort in education. The sponsors are able to visit with the students while Saldaña, along with her grandmother, help translate letters to English from the students and deliver small gifts and drawings.
“The experiences I have had as a part of this organization are invaluable and I admire my grandmother for the tireless effort she has given to making a difference in the lives of so many children,” Saldaña said.
The most important aspect of education for her is building a rapport with her students and their families.
“If I can connect with my kids, they will be willing to work hard and invest in their own learning,” Saldaña said. “I want them to leave the classroom with a love of learning and the ability to discover new things on their own.”
Keeping the classroom goals in check is what provides structure for her students. Saldaña explained if she expects for her students to perform at their best, then she must be willing to perform at her best as well.
A job as a teacher simultaneously makes herself commonplace and unique, Saldaña said. Around the world there are millions of people who call themselves teachers and who have similar goals and methods for education, but she adds each instructor has their distinct way of teaching.
“Sharing and listening to other’s ideas fuels the excitement and passion I feel towards my vocation,” Saldaña said. “Returning to school to earn my Master’s degree was one of the best decisions I made and allowed me to work with teachers from around the nation who taught science.”