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 Whether students are face-to-face or online, they still log in to engage as a class for our lessons. Ultimately, I am the classroom. Wherever I go (physically or virtually) my students do too.

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

A I can’t speak about just one when it’s two who have impacted my life the most this school year. They reminded me of the importance of being fearless. These two students are unafraid and embrace what life has to offer them regardless of their circumstances. Their perseverance and will to thrive academically and emotionally has allowed me to reconnect with my own intrinsic motivation.

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

A This school year my uncle passed away due to COVID-19. He was my mom’s brother, a father figure, the life of the party, and a shoulder to lean on. His parting has been a daily struggle because I can hear, see, and feel the emptiness created by his absence. I don’t believe I will be able to overcome losing someone so important to me, but I do know that I have become a fountain of trust for my students who are experiencing loss this school year. Being able to connect and navigate daily with them has been reinforcing and empowering because my students remind me that I am appreciated.

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 My teacher preparation program prepared me for the unknown. Like life, teaching is full of surprises. Our plans can be set and ready to go, but if our students are not ready to move on to the next concept (even if we’re crunched for time) we can’t. You can hope that a lesson will be executed beautifully with no issues, but that is not the reality of teaching (especially this school year).

Q What advice or encouragement do you have for teachers starting their careers in the 2021-22 school year?

A You are not obligated to be anyone other than yourself. Students want to connect with the real you, not with a fake version of you. It’s okay to make mistakes, but own them when you do. Hold yourself accountable and responsible just like you would a 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 The greatest lesson I learned this school year as a teacher is that I will never stop being a student.