Edgewood Elementary School in Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) holds a special place in Melanie Lozano Garza's heart.
She not only attended elementary school at Edgewood but returned there to student teach and eventually found her way back to where she is now in her first year of teaching fourth-grade math and science.
All in the family
Melanie's connection to Edgewood is also deepened because her mother, Mrs. Garza, taught pre-k, kindergarten, first, and second grades there for many years. As a little girl, Melanie would tag along with her mother to summer school, where her love of teaching took root.
"I'm really excited to be back at Edgewood and teaching in the school district that helped me shape my academic journey and master the English language," said Melanie. "I'm also proud to follow in my mom's footsteps as a dedicated educator."
Melanie embarks on her first year of teaching with boundless enthusiasm for helping her young students excel in math and science. Her mother simultaneously continues to leave her impact on SBISD as a teacher at Panda Path.
"Teaching definitely runs in our family, and I'm proud to help keep that legacy going," said Melanie.
Melanie's path wasn't always destined for the classroom, though. After graduating from high school, she decided to pursue a degree in biology from Texas A&M University in San Antonio.
"I was going through the motions in my classes, but deep down, I knew my heart wasn't in pre-med biology," said Melanie. "It belonged elsewhere."
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a turning point in Melanie's life.
As teachers faced heightened challenges brought upon by remote learning and many left their positions, she couldn't ignore the call to follow her true passion: teaching. Recognizing that children who began their educational journeys during the pandemic, "COVID-19 babies," as she calls them, needed dedicated teachers more than ever, she decided to enroll at the University of Houston and obtain her teaching degree.
"Despite what some of my friends were saying about the teaching profession, I decided to follow my heart," said Melanie. "And I'm so glad I did."
Forging a connection
Although Melanie graduated high school from another district, she has always felt strong ties to SBISD, so she chose it as the place to start her teaching career. While her mother's tenure as a teacher certainly has something to do with it, Melanie says the sense of community and the diversity of the district help make her feel like it's exactly where she belongs.
"I often cross paths with my mother's former colleagues in the hallways, and it just feels like I'm part of an extended family," said Melanie.
She also said the support she's received as a first-year teacher from SBISD has been invaluable and nothing short of amazing.
"I've found a network of helpful mentors willing to assist with anything I need. The district has given me a firm foundation to succeed as a teacher," said Melanie.
Meeting the needs of each student
Now that she is a teacher, Melanie has been working to define her philosophy and what she hopes to impart to her students. Recognizing that education goes beyond textbooks and tests, she is deeply committed to helping her students develop the Core Characteristics of a T-2-4 Ready Graduate so they have the skills to navigate the challenges they undoubtedly will encounter in life.
Melanie strives to create a classroom environment that fosters empathy, communication, and collaboration in a world that can sometimes feel disconnected.
She also believes in tailoring her teaching methods to meet the unique needs of each child, ensuring that every student is included.
"There is no cookie-cutter way to learn, especially a subject like math, which can be challenging for some students. If they need one-on-one help or would benefit from a small group setting, I'm willing to set that up so they have every chance at succeeding and reaching their potential," said Melanie.
Expressing her gratitude
Melanie has encountered several SBISD teachers throughout her educational journey who have left a lasting impression on her life. First is her mother, who provided the foundation for Melanie's love of teaching.
Melanie is also grateful to Mr. Cruz, who taught her fourth-grade math and science. Coincidentally, Melanie took Mr. Cruz's place after he retired, a position Melanie is honored to accept. She is also thankful for her first-grade teacher, Mrs. Del Riego, and her second-grade teacher, Ms. Burke, who contributed to her growth as a student and a future educator.
"I'm really fortunate to have such outstanding role models in my life. They provided excellent examples of how to teach and be kind and caring, which is essential in the teaching profession," said Melanie.
Looking ahead, Melanie has ambitious goals. She hopes to return to school eventually to earn her master's degree in teaching and enhance her skills and knowledge to become an even more effective educator.
For now, however, she is a shining example of the incredible educators who call SBISD home. Her dedication to her students and her embodiment of SBISD's commitment to putting children at the heart of all they do make Melanie a tremendous asset to the district, her students, and their families. As she fulfills her dream of becoming a teacher, she also gives back to the community that helped mold her into the educator and person she is today.
With young teachers like Melanie, who has limitless energy and enthusiasm for shaping young minds, the future of SBISD and its students is indeed a bright one.
Photos: Melaine pictured on her first day of pre-K in SBISD, and today.