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San Elizario Goes from Vacancies to GRIT

Mr. Harrison, Mrs. Parra, and Mrs. Reza

Names from left to right: Norman Harrison, Nadia Carmina Parra, and Yolanda Reza


SAN ELIZARIO, TEXAS – The San Elizario Independent School District (SEISD) takes the "growing your own" mentality to the next level. Given the current teacher shortage in the state, looking for innovative ways to grow internal talent and provide opportunities for employees to become certified teachers is now more critical than ever. As a result of those efforts, the "GRIT Program" was born. "GRIT" stands for "Growing R19 Internal Talent".

The GRIT Program originated in SEISD in September 2021. The partnership established between the SEISD and the Education Service Center Region 19 (ESC R19) allows eligible employees to enroll in the Region 19 Alternative Teacher Certification Program and receive benefits unavailable to traditional students. For example, the waiving of the application and technology fees. In addition, instead of completing an unpaid internship, GRIT participants will be able to complete their clinical training while working at SEISD.

Other benefits include reimbursing exam fees and tuition reimbursement of $1,000 paid by the SEISD. "We are excited for the opportunity to see our instructional aides and substitute teachers pursue their dream of becoming a certified teacher," said Blanca I. Cruz, Human Resources Director for the SEISD. "They've given so much to the San Elizario community, and GRIT program will allow them to grow professionally without having to complete an unpaid internship which is often the barrier that stands between making a decision to enroll in a program or providing for their families" Cruz added.

The program requirements are to be an employee of SEISD, hold a Bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher education, and have an overall GPA of 2.5. The vision of the GRIT Program is "To grow internal talent by providing an opportunity for paraprofessionals with a Bachelor's degree or higher to become certified teachers and meet the district's need for teachers."

The SEISD Human Resources Director Blanca Cruz, the ESC R19 Staff Barbara Amaya and Jesse Teran, and Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Meza-Chavez met with potential candidates to discuss the GRIT program opportunity.  The following three candidates committed to going through the program: Norman Harrison, Nadia Carmina Parra, and Yolanda Reza.

Mr. Norman Harrison is an instructional aide at San Elizario High School (SEHS) and has been with the district since November 2020; and he has a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.  Mr. Harrison is also the Head Wrestling Coach at the Garcia Enriquez Middle School, and he serves as an assistant football coach at SEHS.  Harrison states, "So far, the program is going well. It is a demanding program, but it will be worth it in the end. The instructors have a lot of knowledge and are helping me understand why we do the things in the classroom that I have been doing since I started as a guest teacher.”

Ms. Nadia Carmina Parra is a bilingual aide at Borrego Elementary School, and she has been with the district since August 2021 and holds a Bachelor's degree in dentistry.  Parra states, "I have to say that is a great program! Our teachers are experienced and kind; they motivate me to learn and to stay focused.”

Finally, Ms. Yolanda Reza is a guest teacher, and she has been filling in for a long-term vacancy for culinary arts at SEHS. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. Reza states, "Thank you, SEISD, for the opportunity; it is a huge blessing." As a guest teacher in the San Elizario ISD, Reza understands that what she is learning will assist her as she prepares to become a certified teacher. "The classes are so amazing, a lot of good information and useful tools for our teaching career; all the staff is very attentive and interactive with us. Appreciate everything and everyone," states Reza.