As the 2020-21 school year came to an end, ten Charles Butt Scholar alumni in their first years as Texas teachers shared their learnings and reflections with us. The stories, struggles, and triumphs showcased in this Q&A portfolio provide an honest look at what it’s like to be a new teacher.

Q What does teaching and learning look like right now in your classroom?

A Learning right now is highly individualized. Each of my students requires something different to meet their needs and it’s my job to do the best I can to provide the services that will allow them to learn the most they can possibly learn.

Q What is something you’ve learned from a student this year?

A No learning can occur before a hello and a smile.

Q What was a challenge you faced this school year and how did you overcome it?

A The nature of my classroom is very challenging because I work with students that have diverse behavioral needs. This year I worked with a student with aggressive tendencies and I had to employ all the learning strategies from my time in the UT College of Education in order to meet the student where he was and teach him effectively. By reaching out to support systems from my time in college, I was able to try different strategies and make huge progress with my student!

Q What have you seen over the course of this school year that gives you hope/optimism about Texas public schools?

A I have hope in America’s future. This year has been tumultuous for many students and families, yet they are resilient. Educators and communities have worked together to provide meals, wifi, technology devices, and the best education possible for all students no matter if they are learning at home or six feet apart in person. The amount that the school community and community partners have come together to support the students that attend our school has been awe-inspiring. Education continues to be the catalyst that changes the world!

Q What did you learn from your teacher preparation program that helped prepare you for this past year, and knowing what you know now, what do you wish you had learned to be better prepared?

A In my teacher preparation program at UT Austin, I learned advocacy and resiliency. I learned that doing my absolute best to meet my student’s needs is my primary reason for teaching and that it is my job to advocate for each of my scholars as much as possible. I learned that every day will present a new challenge and I must keep my head up and keep positive vibes flowing so that I am giving the best I can to my students every day. Some days this may not be much, but if it’s everything I have to give, then it’s enough.

Q What is a practice/strategy you will take from your teaching experience during COVID-19 and integrate into future (non-COVID) years?

A I will definitely use Zoom to communicate with parents that may not be able to meet in person! It makes a world of a difference to see parents in person and ensure that they can see me too. This is a much more personable experience for our families and makes a world of a difference in families’ willingness to trust that you will do everything you can for their student.

Q Thinking about the 2020-21 school year as a whole, what was your greatest lesson, either about teaching or yourself as a professional?

A My greatest lesson throughout this school year is that relationships matter. Relationships with your students and their families are vital to their success. Take the extra time and effort to build a trusting relationship with each of them. It will pay off and make your impact much greater. Relationships with your administration and other staff members are vital to your success. Do your best to create positive relationships with the people around you. They will help you, guide you, challenge you to think critically about your practices, and be there when you have days that are just too much. Lean on them because they have been where you are.