"Will You Be My Teacher?"
This sign was all over Houston on huge billboards. One can't miss it in the daily commute since they were almost at every turn. At first, I ignored it because I had no intention of staying for good. There were software projects to return to in the Philippines, and of course, there was my beloved UP.
The main reason for our travel to the US was to visit my daughter, Michelle, and see my first grandson who was only about two years old. As fate would have it, my priorities changed.
A Huge Turning Point.
I wanted my grandson to know his Lola and Lolo as he grows. What better way for that to happen but to be with him every day growing up until he was old enough to remember us.
Going Job Hunting
Staying for good meant that I had to find a job that added a layer of concern. Fortunately, it turned out that Michelle has a friend who runs an employment agency that caters to teachers and nurses.
Hiring an agency would be the most convenient route to take since it already has connections with school districts who want to free themselves from the nitty-gritty of paperwork and documentation evaluation.
Once the agency determines that there are no legal impediments, it will then arrange an interview with the Human Resources department.
A Dearth In Math And Science Teachers
For some reason, math and science teachers were in short supply then. I believe it is still the same until now. It was so short in supply that I was hired on the spot even though I did not have my teaching license from the Philippines but my resume. I was given a District Teaching Permit that allows one to teach in any school inside the district, but not outside it. I was given two years to obtain a Texas teaching license. Otherwise, I will have to be removed from the district. Not a good thing.
Next Step: School Hunting
Getting hired by the district does not mean you already have a job. One still has to look for a school in need of your services and willing to take you in. This is another layer of interviews with the school administration. Sometimes, one is asked to give a demonstration of teaching methodologies or strategies.
I was not asked to do any of that. Maybe the school was in real need of teachers that it would not give any applicant any reason to back out or, perhaps I was able to convince the school by the way the interview went, or perhaps the school was simply intent on grabbing any warm body that came in for interview.
Three Semesters and Two Summers
As it turned out, I needed to earn additional credits to qualify for the Texas Education Agency exams for the alternative certification of teachers. I had to take the classes after school hours since I'd be teaching during the day. I did not want to steal my weekends away just for the classes. I needed the weekend break.
It took me three semesters and two summers to remove my deficiency in credits earned. To do that, I enrolled at the University of St. Thomas for those credits. I also availed of the summer institute programs at Rice University for AP Physics, the one-year program on Teaching Physics by Induction Method where we met every Wednesday for ten months. I also enrolled in the summer program still at Rice University on Carbon Fiber and Nanotechnology.
There were also quite a few other workshops for physics teachers that I attended in other venues outside Rice University. These were important to help me acclimate to the teaching culture. Knowing other physics teachers through these encounters eased me, in a way, into the teaching workforce of the district.
An Honest Mistake
Carelessness in filling up the application form for the exams cost me time and money. Unbeknownst to me, I honestly thought that passing the Science exam was the right option only to be informed after the fact that I can not use it for a teaching certificate. The reason being that I did not have any units in Biology which are a pre-requisite for it.
So I applied a second time but for the Physical Science exams which should have been my choice early on. The good thing was that I could still be certified for Science but as my secondary certification behind my primary certification in Physical Science. Having two certifications, Physical Science and Science, qualifies me to teach Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
Was All These Worth It?
Yes, would be my short and only reply. While it is true that by choosing to do one thing also causes one to miss doing another thing, there is always the presumption that the favored choice is always weighed against pertinent circumstances for and against it. In my case, I did and I made the choice to stay and gave myself a new adventure in another country, and for good reasons.
My First Year Of Teaching
I could write an entire book on this. For sure, the road was rough and bumpy. There were too many overwhelming concerns dragging me down. Some were imagined and some were real.
But this is better left for another day and another blog.
Thank you for taking the time to read. Stay safe!
Martin Castillo is a retired public school teacher with the Houston Independent School District. He is currently based in Houston.