Beatris MartinezCohort 6
Mentor: Rene Sanchez
As a first-generation Mexican-American, my life is proof that caring educators paired with meaningful learning experiences can equip a generation with the necessary skill set to succeed in life, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. The two educators that impacted my life the most include my first-grade teacher who taught me to read and nurtured my learning of a new language through hands-on and real-world experiences, and the other being the college advisor that held my newborn son as she coached me through the enrollment process for my first college course.
My parents made sacrifices when they came to this country and dreamed of what I would achieve. Learning grade-level skills and a second language at the same time often made me feel lost. My parents always encouraged me to do well in school. While I managed to excel in my studies as I started to dominate the new language, I had to resolve school challenges on my own due to my parent’s limited schooling and inability to speak English. I graduated from high school as a Texas Scholar and worked two jobs to contribute my portion to the household income.
They say your life can change in a split second, and when I held my newborn son for the first time as an unemployed, teenage mom, it did. I felt as though my world stopped when I realized the difficult challenges my son would face because of my decisions. I felt shame and despair when I saw my parent’s faces filled with disappointment for my lack of preparation and life choices. Not being able to supply my son with his basic needs forced me to request government assistance. While waiting in line, I vowed to change my life and one day be on the other side, helping others not requesting it. I knew that a college education would give me a second chance I needed to provide my son a life without poverty. Education gave me hope to reimagine my life beyond what other people could see.
In 2002, I earned an Associate of Arts degree from Richland College, then continued my studies and, in 2005, became the first college graduate of my family when I walked the stage to receive my bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. I then initiated my career in the profession that changed the course of my son’s and my own life, education—returning to serve in the district that did so much for me was an honor. As a bilingual teacher, I identified myself with the students I taught and did everything within my reach to equip them with the academic and life skills needed as a first-generation Latino student. I pursued a degree in leadership and earned a Master of Arts from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2008. I worked for four years as an assistant principal and have led my campus as an elementary principal for approximately nine years now. While there have been challenges, my commitment to provide our students with the same opportunity for a better life overshadows any thoughts of doubt or impossibility.
As a parent, educator, and community member, I believe it’s my responsibility to contribute a legacy that leaves this world better than it was before me. Since joining TALAS, I have been blessed with the opportunity and privilege to extend the organization’s growth as the current president of a local affiliate through Garland ISD’s Garland Association of Latino Administrators (GALA). I’ve experienced, first-hand, what the power of education can do to unlock doors of opportunity, empower, heal, and change the course of a life. No amount of money could repay what the educators in my life did for me, and because of that, I strive to pay it forward as a leader in both education and my community.
Having the honor to join such an exemplary organization provides me with the necessary tools and abilities to extend my contribution at a larger scale for the growth and development of more leaders. Attending the Texas Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (TALAS) has been beneficial and the opportunity is especially valuable to me, as it has allowed me to learn from a community of professionals that have achieved and succeeded with professional goals that I plan to one day achieve. The dialogue, wisdom, and leadership experiences are immeasurable, and the benefits outweigh the knowledge gained from traditional learning.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, said it best when he stated, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” This quote brings to mind the value of what the program is doing by establishing such cohorts that offer unique opportunities of growing and equipping leaders with the capacity to succeed and thereby creating a cycle in which developed leaders can help create new generations of leaders.
Joining such a professional community has been an honor and one of the greatest opportunities for my development, professional goals, and career. I commit to prioritizing the time, energy, and one day, the contribution of paying it forward to a community of leaders and upcoming TALAS cohorts.