Gissela Flores knew without question as a first grader that she wanted to be a teacher.
“I just knew that is what I was destined to do,” said Gissela, who is entering her first year of teaching in Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) as a pre-K bilingual teacher at The Panda Path School. “And I’m thrilled that my journey has led me back to SBISD – the school district where I attended and whose teachers had a profound impact on my life, instilling confidence and helping me reach my highest potential.”
Coming out of her shell
As a little girl, Gissela remembers being painfully shy. The daughter of first-generation immigrants from Mexico, Gissela, had a strong Spanish accent. It made speaking English somewhat challenging, leaving Gissela feeling self-conscious and afraid to express herself.
She recalls one of her teachers in SBISD, Mrs. Espinoza, who took Gissela under her wing. Gissela recalls how Mrs. Espinoza helped to bring her out of her shell, making her feel at ease and confident about embracing her individuality.
“She just had a nurturing way about her – a way of making me feel comfortable, welcome, and appreciated for who I was,” shared Gissela.
The interaction left a lasting impression on Gissela, one that she carried throughout the remainder of her time in SBSID as a student at Hollibrook Elementary School and later when she attended Westchester Academy for International Studies.
Paving a path
Mrs. Espinoza and Gissela’s other SBISD teachers provided an example for her to follow and a network of support as Gissela pursued her dream of one day becoming an educator. While in high school, she volunteered with summer school activities across campuses throughout the district. She later worked as a youth development specialist at Woodview Elementary, helping kids enhance their science, math, and reading skills.
“SBISD had a special place in my heart for what it had given me, so I was always looking for ways to give back in meaningful ways. I did it on purpose,” she said.
The oldest of five siblings and the first one in the family to go to college, Gissela also credits her experiences at SBISD for helping her successfully earn an associate degree in teaching from Houston Community College and then her EC-6 bilingual interdisciplinary studies degree from the University of Houston-Downtown this past May.
Gissel said she will always be grateful to SBISD for providing a firm academic foundation and for what the district did to help her become the person she is today.
Helping students survive and thrive
While many aspiring teachers left the classroom to pursue other careers during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, Gissela’s desire to teach and help shape children’s minds never once wavered. In fact, the pandemic strengthened her determination.
“The pandemic furthered my passion for helping kids excel academically, socially, and emotionally. I discovered I want to be someone kids and their families can lean on,” said Gissela.
COVID-19 also opened Gissela’s eyes to how important it is for children to have a support system and engaged families at home. She firmly believes it requires a collective effort from educators, parents, students, and community members to help students to thrive in the classroom and in life.
Returning to her roots
SBISDs emphasis on community and the sense of belonging it cultivates for students, teachers, and parents is what partly drew Gissela back to the district to embark on her teaching career.
It also was the active involvement of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), which is constantly striving to enhance and create more educational opportunities for students at all grade levels.
“It’s refreshing to see the collaboration between parents and teachers because it’s not something you see in every district,” said Gissela. “SBISD is a district that treats its students and families as an extended family, and I’m so fortunate to be a part of it.”
Inspired by SBISD’s Core Values of putting Every Child first, sparking Limitless Curiosity, and fostering a Collective Greatness, Gissela looks forward to helping young minds take root and flourish. Designed to be a haven of positivity, vibrancy, and learning, she hopes her classroom is a place where all her students will feel welcome, eliciting the same feeling Mrs. Espinoza created for her as a little girl. Recognizing that some students may carry stressors from their home lives, she’s determined to make a sanctuary that fosters learning and well-being.
As she steps into her exciting new role, Gissela embraces the opportunity to impart knowledge across various subjects, a responsibility she takes seriously and with fervent enthusiasm. All the while, she acknowledges the SBISD educators who helped her shape her journey and the profound impact they had on her life.
Setting her sights
Looking ahead to the future, Gissela envisions a path to leadership, with aspirations to become a principal at a pre-K or elementary school.
SBISD is proud to have Gissela on its team of world-class pre-K educators this year and eagerly awaits her contributions to the classroom and beyond. The district is even more proud to have played an instrumental role in shaping her life and who she is today.
“To start my teaching career in the very district that kindled my love for education is immensely rewarding,” said Gissela. “I hope to embody the spirit of SBISD’s commitment to excellence, community, and nurturing young minds, and serve a positive influence in the lives of my students and their families.”
With a heart full of optimism, a mind brimming with knowledge, and an inviting classroom that radiates warmth and happiness, Gissela is ready to embark on an exciting journey that will shape the future, one child at a time.
Gissela’s journey reflects her strong belief in the power of education to transform lives. She, herself, is a living example. No matter where her path takes her, one thing is evident: she will undoubtedly remain committed to fostering environments where children have the opportunity to shine.
Interested in joining Gissela and the SBISD team? Visit www.springbranchisd.com/join-our-team to view current opportunities.