Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Overcoming Challenges & Thriving: Second-Grade Teacher Draws from Personal Experience to Inspire Young Students

Ana Alvarez, a first-year, self-contained bilingual teacher at Westwood Elementary School in Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD), wants nothing more than to see her second-grade students shine in all subjects.

In her classroom, not providing a response or answering with “I can’t” or “I don’t know” is not acceptable.

“My goal is for each student to apply themselves and do their best as they tackle various challenges,” said Ana. “The ability to do this will help them succeed not only in the classroom but also in life.”

No stranger to challenges 

Ana knows all too well about overcoming challenges and draws from her personal experiences each day she enters her classroom and prepares to teach.

As a high school student in SBISD, she learned she had dyslexia, a learning disability that affects reading and writing. Ana recalls how the disorder made reading an extremely stressful activity that filled her with lots of anxiety.

But thanks to the support she received from teachers and others at her school and across the SBISD, she conquered her dyslexia, and now reading is by far her favorite subject.

“I love to read now, especially mysteries,” said Ana. “I hope to share the joy I have for reading with my students,” said Ana.

From administrative assistant to educator 

To this day, Ana is grateful to SBISD for helping her overcome dyslexia and why she decided to pursue a career there.

“SBISD gave me the confidence to succeed and helped me realize my dyslexia didn’t define me,” said Ana. “I wanted to give back to the school district that had done so much for me. Also, as a product of Spring Branch, I knew I always wanted to return to my roots.”

Ana began her journey in SBISD working in Transportation, but her path to the classroom took an unconventional turn. When she transitioned to Memorial High School as an administrative assistant, and later to an elementary campus, her principal quickly recognized her unique qualities - a special spark that set her apart.

Encouraged by her principal's belief in her potential and a nudge from her brother, a fellow teacher, Ana pursued a teaching certificate, despite never having considered the profession before.

Motivated to help students reach their full potential, she enrolled at Houston Community College for her basics. Then, she went to the University of Houston-Downtown to obtain her bachelor’s degree in education.

And although she started her teaching journey in the middle of the worldwide pandemic, it didn’t faze her. She firmly believes that in education and all aspects of life, you have to have the mindset to jump in with two feet and roll with the punches, remaining focused on the task at hand.

A clear choice 

When the time came for Ana to complete her student teaching, she knew without a doubt that she needed and wanted to be at Westwood. She had previously served as a substitute teacher there and instantly fell in love with the school and the staff.

She also created an instant connection with the principal, Mrs. Chavez.

“I’m so grateful for the amazing second-grade team at Westwood and am extremely grateful for their support as I navigate this first year of teaching. Instead of drowning, I’m swimming and loving every minute of it,” said Ana.

Driven by a profound sense of purpose, Ana was also motivated to teach at Westwood because it’s a Title 1 school.

“While Title 1 schools present unique challenges, they also provide tremendous opportunities and rich rewards,” said Ana.

No cookie-cutter approach to learning 

Her commitment to making a difference in the lives of low-income students is evident in her every action and reflected in her teaching philosophy, which aligns with SBISD’s value of putting Every Child at the heart of everything they do and seeing the infinite possibilities through education.  

“Every student has a different learning style, and each one goes at their own pace. They need time to process the information, which is totally OK,” said Ana.

She adopts this mindset with her 13-year-old son, an SBISD student. He, too, has dyslexia. Ana says that her son inspires her for how he is conquering his unique set of challenges, which gives her even more drive to help the children in her classroom. Her personal experience strengthens her commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment for all children to thrive.

Both at home and in school, Ana relentlessly ensures that her students never experience the same anxiety about learning as she once did.  

Ana also deeply and genuinely loves her students and their families. She cherishes the relationships she forms with students and parents, believing these connections are the foundation for successful learning experiences.

An infinite love of children 

Looking ahead, Ana aspires to further her career by pursuing her master’s degree in education counseling. Fueled by her love of communicating with children, she wants to help young people overcome developmental, personal, and social problems to reach their fullest potential.

“Our young children need all the support they can get to help them blossom into productive and successful adults. I want to be part of that process,” said Ana.

Exemplifying the SBISD spirit in everything she does, Ana’s story serves as a reminder that education is a powerful force, and with the right approach, Every Child has boundless possibilities to soar.