Jeanine Ybarra and Madeline Reyes are not new to Spring Branch ISD. Both previously worked as classroom and office assistants in the district.
This year they are new teachers at Spring Branch Elementary thanks to the district’s support of their participation in Relay, a two-year graduate degree program.
Participants in the Relay Graduate School of Education have a bachelor’s degree and work full time in school districts while learning best practices from education professors during once-a-week and evening classes. In the first year of the program, they apply what they have learned in classrooms under the mentorship of experienced teachers.
In SBISD, employees in the Relay program are guaranteed employment after successfully completing one year of the Relay program.
According to SBISD Relay program coordinator, Stacie Gibson, there are tremendous benefits to the district in this growth opportunity for paraprofessionals. “They understand the district’s policies and practices, and have buy-in with the Core Values,” she said. “They also have allegiance to our community and the populations we serve.”
Ybarra and Reyes are now in the second year of the Relay program. At the end of this school year, they will have earned master’s degrees in education.
“Spring Branch Elementary is fortunate to have two Relay teachers,” said Principal David Rodriguez.
“Their experience as paraprofessionals is very helpful for several reasons: they are already familiar with school procedures, they know the importance of setting expectations for students, and they are very comfortable in their work with students. All that contributes to a smooth transition into being a teacher of record.”
Prior to being a Relay Fellow, Jeanine Ybarra worked at Lion Lane School for Early Learning as a classroom assistant then administrative assistant for 12 years. Her love of teaching was inspired by the director at Lion Lane, Sharee Cantrell.
"I have always known that working in education was my dream,” said Ybarra. “Now, working as a Kindergarten teacher at Spring Branch Elementary, I finally feel fulfilled.”
As Ybarra works hard to instill the Limitless Curiosity in her classroom, it “warms her heart” to see her young students be enthusiastic about learning.
The SBISD Core Values are also undergirding the success of her own children as they grow up in the district—she has two in high school and one in Pre-K. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Ybarra.
The past two school years, Madeline Reyes was an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher assistant at Hunters Creek Elementary, which sparked her interest in becoming a teacher.
“I was surrounded by a great group of teachers and students who gave me the extra bit of confirmation I needed to take the next step,” said Reyes, who is now teaching second grade a Spring Branch Elementary.
She brings an asset-based perspective to her classroom, where they celebrate each other, talk about differences and what makes each person unique and special.
“We call each other the ‘class-fam’ because we truly are a class family,” said Reyes.
She was also raised in SBISD, and credits many of her past teachers for setting her on the path to a career in education. “I strive to be like all of those amazing teachers every day,” said Reyes.
The Core Value of Collective Greatness resonates with Reyes. “As teachers, we always work together for the common good and what’s best for our students,” she said.
Within the Spring Branch Elementary community, Reyes also recognizes the contributions of the custodians. “They do so much for us every day. Collective Greatness would not be complete without them,” said Reyes with appreciation.
A new group of six Relay program participants recently began their passages to become teachers in SBISD in fall 2021.
“It is a very rewarding feeling of accomplishment to see a person grow from a paraprofessional to a teacher,” said Gibson. “To see the joy and excitement on their faces is priceless.”
Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications