Jorge A. Ibanez, Edinburg CISD
Born on a small border town in Mexico, Mr. Ibanez moved to the United States at the age of eleven. He was inspired by his love of learning and the wonderful teachers he encountered in high school to pursue a career in education. After graduating from high school in 2005, he proceeded to attend college at The University of Texas Pan – American, where he was named a University Scholar and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Mathematics. During college, he worked at the university as a tutor for those students who struggled with college-level mathematics.
This made him see that many of his peers were being kept back from accomplishing their goals by their deficiencies in their mathematics education, especially students that, like him, also had to struggle with the challenges of being immigrants. Ever since then, Mr. Ibanez has made it one of his life goals to help as many students as possible to have a strong mathematics education, so that they may realize their full potential and reach for higher goals in their own education.
Quote: “I have seen a trend in the Rio Grande Valley, where many students have low expectations for themselves. I wish to change this. I want as many students as possible to dispel the idea that they cannot attend prestigious universities or achieve their dream of having a highly successful career.”
Daniel Lara, Edinburg CISD
I graduated from Mission High School in 1989 and teaching was the furthest from my mind, I wanted to become an accountant, specifically a CPA. I had always loved math and working with numbers and puzzles. After 15 years of working in the private sector, I found that I still enjoyed learning but now, I enjoyed teaching as well. During this time, I was given the opportunity to work with youth at Cub Scouts and at the middles school level and found I enjoyed it and I was hooked.
After some prodding from family, I went back to college and starting working on becoming a teacher. I enjoy catching that moment when the light bulb comes on in a student’s eyes because they “get it”. It is the best feeling, I think, that any teacher can hope to feel, helping one student succeed.
Thania Chapa, Donna ISD
As a product of Donna ISD, I continued my education, as a University and a GEAR UP Scholar at the University of Texas - Pan American, where I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree in Science with a Middle School Math Concentration, as well as a double major in English. I am currently completing my third year of teaching at Sauceda Middle School in Donna ISD.
Teaching became a strong desire for me since a very young age, after noticing the impact my teachers had on me, especially in the manner they motivated me to always have an inquiring mind. Mathematics became especially significant and fun in the connection I felt it has with the real world, as well as how it challenged my thinking. With this program I hope to contribute in motivating our students to set high expectations and understand that achieving them is a reality!
Patricia Vivanco, Donna ISD
I was born in Pharr Texas but raised in Reynosa Tamaulipas. I moved to the United
States with my family when I was a teenager, I was the first one in my family to
graduate from high school and later from the University of Texas Pan-American with a double mayor mathematics and Spanish. I have a beautiful and supportive family that encourages me to continue my education.
Teaching mathematics a fulfilling career; during my seven years as an educator I have never stopped trying to improve at what I do. I am currently teaching Algebra 1 and I have been a curriculum writer for Donna ISD for the past 6 years. I want to help my students understand and perform better in their math classes, elevating the percentage of high school and college graduates in our community.
Jorge Saurez, Weslaco ISD
Mr. Suarez graduated from Weslaco High School. He went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in the Science of Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas – Pan American. After obtaining his degree he went on to work at Texas Instruments as a high voltage engineer. After working in Houston for TI, he decided to come back to his hometown to purse a teaching career.
He initially wanted to be a teacher at Weslaco High School, but he chose to become a math teacher at Weslaco East High School. As a teacher he would be able to expose his students to math from an engineering perspective. As a former migrant student he would be able to share his story of perseverance. He hopes that many of his students see the long journey he took to become the person he is today and they can say, “I can do the same thing.”
Nancy Farrell, Weslaco ISD
Nancy Farrell is currently teaching Algebra 1 at Weslaco High School. Previously, she taught at the elementary level for 12 years, 8th grade science for 3 years, and 4 years at the high school level. She also worked as the Advanced Academics Coordinator for Weslaco ISD for 5 years, as an Assistant Principal for 4 years, and spent 1 year at IDEA Public Schools as the Primary Program Director.
Nancy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunication from Michigan State University, and her Master’s Degree in Gifted Education and Mid-Management Certificate from UTPA. She is looking forward to earning a Master’s Degree in Teaching Mathematics from Harvard University so she can prepare and inspire the next generation of students to pursue STEM careers. She hopes to teach dual enrollment courses at Weslaco High School and eventually return to administration to oversee the math department.
Nathanael Watt, Mission CISD
Nathanael Watt began high school in Mission CISD before moving on to graduate second in his class from Sharyland High School in 2003. He studied computer science for a year at Le Tourneau University then earned his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from UTPA in 2009. Before joining the professional world, Nathan traveled to several countries including Bolivia and Japan doing short term volunteer missions work for local churches and student groups.
Between these trips he often worked as a private tutor in math and science and soon gained an interest in pursuing a career in education. He's now come full circle teaching math and engineering in his old biology class room for Veterans Memorial High School in Mission. After gaining his Masters he looks forward to teaching dual enrollment classes for his school in upper levels of mathematics, where he can project his love of the subjects to students and press them towards a real understanding of the subject and how it relates to our world.
Gina Miquiabas, PSJA ISD
Gina Olmedo was the South Texas College Faculty Spotlight and Distinguished Teaching and Learning Award Recipient in 2011. She was the Top Scorer, Sponsor’s Competition in Science at the La Joya High School UIL Meet, 2013. However, these recognitions only make up a small portion of what she has accomplished in her life. Born and raised in the Philippines, Gina Olmedo Miquiabas is a well-rounded individual who lives with passion, dedication and grace. She enjoys reading, watching movies and crafting.
She is an Algebra 1 teacher at PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-STEM ECHS, an adjunct college math instructor at South Texas College, a mentor, UIL coach (Biology/Physics), and an entrepreneur. She has two beautiful daughters, Paula and Patricia, six dogs and five cats. Ms. Miquiabas has always believed that the best way to get students to learn is to make their studies relevant to the world outside the classroom. Her aphorism is “what you sow, is what you reap.” If you impart high quality education, you will reap highly qualified professionals.
Dayanara Imhoff, PSJA ISD
While earning my Bachelor’s degree at UTPA, I recall a professor who was excellent in delivering her content, but also extremely passionate for teaching and mentoring students. At that moment, I remember thinking, “I want my students to see my passion for them and for the content that I teach!” For this reason, I had been considering earning my masters in Mathematics for Teaching, but was not financially able to take the step. The Texas Graduate Center, PSJA ISD and Harvard University Extension School have now afforded me this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m completely invested not just in a personal and professional way, but as a goal and an achievement for my students, my community and my family, to both inspire and mentor our students from PSJA North HS and our Rio Grande Valley neighboring communities.
I am certain that this graduate program will strengthen my knowledge in mathematics from a teaching perspective exposing me to the pedagogy--the science of teaching my subject. In addition, the mathematics classes solidify my mathematical foundation. This experience will be something I will share with all my current and future students. I want to encourage all my students to seek a college education and not lose sight of the “open doors” available to them. NO university or college is unattainable! My desire is to help all my students achieve academically and personally beyond their own expectations. This graduate degree is a vehicle to new perspectives and strategies to accomplish my goal and ultimate desire to be the best teacher and mentor I can be in my community.