The 25th Teacher of the Year Banquet was held Aug. 12 at the American Bank Center in the Henry Garrett Ballroom.
Approximately 900 elementary teachers and 34 campuses are in CCISD. Following a series of essays and interviews of the nominees, 10 finalists were selected, then the top three were chosen.
For 19 of his 20 years as a teacher, Gloria has worked at George Evans Special Emphasis School, teaching children with special needs.
“Every student should be given access to an educational system that is ready and able to help him or her achieve his or her utmost potential,” Gloria said. “I have learned to be flexible and not be too proud to say, ‘maybe I am not doing something right.’”
When Gloria graduated from Texas A&M in College Station with a degree in architecture more than 25 years ago, he enjoyed building things from nothing and seeing his creativity blossom. Teaching was not in his career plan.
The ninth of 11 children, Gloria listened closely to the stories his mother Maria told of his intellectually disabled oldest brother. Those stories of struggle, of faith, and of a mother’s love, would eventually draw him toward children with special needs.
“My mother worked very hard to get my brother to a point in his life where he could sustain himself,” Gloria said.
When his brother Robert was in seventh grade, school officials told Gloria’s mother to take Robert out of school, “they could do nothing more for him.” Doctors advised her to institutionalize Robert.
“Mother refused,” he said. “She began to knock on doors to find a way to help my brother.”
Maria Gloria found Robert a job as a pin boy before automation in the Ayers Bowling Alley. Later, he became a custodian at Spohn Hospital where he worked until he retired.
Now 74, Robert is a productive member of society, largely by his mother’s persistence and faith that all her children’s potential could be reached. Robert now draws a nice retirement and social security check.
“My mother did all that,” Gloria says. “She did for free and from her heart what I had to go to college to learn. That’s the passion and drive and the love that I bring to my children — the belief that they can become something.”
During the summer, Gloria worked as a job counselor teaching drafting. His passion for education grew stronger and he enrolled back in college where he obtained his certification in just one year.
Using his beloved mother as a mentor, he found his niche in the classroom. The special needs children continue to reinforce his decision.
“They’ve all been special,” he said. “One little girl last year had grave disabilities. She was a paraplegic and couldn’t talk or do anything for herself.
“I kept asking myself, ‘what can I do for this child?’ By the end of the year I realized she was giving more to us that we gave to her.”
Soothing classical music is perhaps the only standard in Gloria’s classroom.
“I noticed that when faster music came on, her eyes would light up,” he said. “One day, she was feeling uncomfortable – she couldn’t tell us what was the matter. She became agitated and started to cry. Several young boys in the class – boys you would never dream would try to comfort anyone began to sing to her – that’s what she needed.”
“It was a very beautiful thing. Thank God she was there and I got to see her for that moment in time.”