Berenice Mora – Early Education Teacher
It’s a new initiative at Dell City ISD, with a new teacher in the lead.
Berenice Mora joined the district this year as its early-education teacher, and she’s providing pre-K instruction to 3- and 4-year-olds. Inspired by requests from Dell Valley parents, the district launched the pre-K program this year.
Mora said she’s thrilled by the opportunity to work with the community’s youngest students.
The foundation laid in early education, she said, can have a profound effect on students’ long-term academic success.
“Having a preschool program here is going to affect them in such a positive way,” Mora said of her students. “It’s going to make a big difference – and I want to see that. I want to be a part of that.”
Mora wants her students to enter kindergarten with greater literacy than they might otherwise have. It’s the basics she’s focused on – teaching students letters, numbers, colors and shapes, how to recognize a range of “sight words” and to write their names. Acquiring the basics early will make a lasting difference, she said.
Mora is focused on academics – but that’s always balanced with creating a nurturing and supportive environment, one that facilitates children’s social and emotional growth.
“I want my children to be prepared for kindergarten,” she said, “and I’m going to push it. But they’re kids, and I let them be kids – in pre-K, you can’t do worksheets all day.”
The Dell City position is Mora’s first as a lead teacher. But, in her education and previous work experience, it’s a job she’s been preparing for for years. And it fulfills a calling she’s felt since her own childhood.
Born in Villa Ahumada, Chihuahua, Mora moved with her family to El Paso when she was 7 years old. Apart from a brief period when her father’s work as a nurse took the family to San Antonio, Harlingen and other Texas cities, she’s lived in El Paso since.
Mora said that, as a young girl, “when I would play pretend, I was always the teacher.” Mora is the oldest of four siblings – and her drive to teach expressed itself with her younger siblings.
“While they were growing up, I was their mentor and their tutor,” she said. “I made sure they knew their ABCs, their shapes and so on. That was with me ever since I was young.”
She began her post-secondary education at El Paso Community College, and received an associate’s degree in child development. Then she went to work with Head Start, the federally funded pre-K program. She said the work felt natural, “fun” – and gratifying.
“That’s when I said, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Mora said. “I found that being with children makes me happy, it makes me fulfilled, and I decided to continue my education.”
Mora received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso – and is in the process of completing a master’s degree in school administration at UTEP. She said her ultimate goal is to become a school principal.
Mora’s time as an undergraduate provided a chance for her leadership gifts to shine. She was elected president of the Texas State Teachers Association-Student Program at UTEP. Affiliated with the National Education Association, the program prepares aspiring educators for their intended careers. Members raise funds and volunteer to support public schools. Mora said part of her job was to connect UTEP education students with resources and support systems in their studies.
“It felt good, having so much responsibility,” Mora said, “and being a part of making an organization bloom and grow.”
Mora has moved to Dell City with her three children – and her children are Dell City School students in the seventh, third and first grades. She said that being here takes her back to her own childhood in the small town of Villa Ahumada.
“My grandfather used to raise cattle,” Mora said, “and my uncle used to have a ranch. So I like this type of environment – it reminds me of home. Once I was brought to the United States, I had none of this.
“I’m a very spiritual person,” she said. “I enjoy going for walks, feeling the breeze – it feels good to be here.”
Mora said that one of the questions she asked during her interview was whether there were horses in Dell City. She said she “really wants to practice [her] riding skills,” and is hopeful a Dell City School parent or community member will offer her an opportunity to ride.
For pre-K students, the school day ends at 11:30 a.m. After her preschool students leave, Mora works with the district’s English-language learners. Mora said her job is to “help the students acquire their second language, and to support them with whatever coursework they’re working on.” The number of ESL students is small, and Mora said that gives her “an opportunity to work on a one-to-one basis” and to make a major impact in the students’ education.
In preschool education, Mora said, patience and compassion are essential.
“Some teachers, if they have a troubled child in the classroom, they label them as the ‘bad child,’” Mora said. “But they never stop and think about what that child might be going through, their background, why they’re acting like that. Instead of labeling that child a ‘troubled child,’ I think about what made them that way, and I try to give those children extra attention.
“You have to teach all students,” she said. “That’s part of why they come to school: to learn rules, and to be good members of society.”
And Mora said it’s critical for parents and family members to take an active role in their child’s education, to “do their homework with their children.”
“I’m not going to ask for anything else but for families to read to their children and to go over their alphabet every night,” she said, “and just to be involved with their children’s education.”
Parents and family members can contact Ms. Mora at school, or by email, at Berenice2228@gmail.com.