Honoring Tesha Czubinski, Outstanding Educator
A veteran educator, now in her 18th year of teaching, Tesha Czubinski is part of the backbone of the Dell City School. As a teacher of kindergarten, first, second and third grade students, she’s set the school’s youngest minds on a course of lifelong learning, and she’s a mentor – providing advice, and comfort – to new teachers at the district. Her achievements were celebrated this summer, when, along with other outstanding educators in Hudspeth and El Paso counties, she was honored as a “Teacher of the Year.”
The adventure began last spring, wh
en Czubinski’s Dell City School colleagues selected her to represent the district. As part of the teacher of the year process, administered by the regional Education Service Center in El Paso, Czubinski was asked to write short essays, answering questions about her perspectives on education and her teaching philosophy. She was interviewed and filmed in the classroom. There was a photo session. And, in front her fellow nominees and other educators, she spoke about her teaching journey at a “meet and greet” in El Paso.
She said it was an engaging – if challenging – process. Condensing her thoughts into brief essays wasn’t easy.
“I could sit and talk about education all day long,” Czubinski said, “so it was kind of hard to limit that to just a few words.”
And speaking publicly about herself, and her accomplishments, didn’t come naturally.
“I love to talk about my profession, but to brag about myself – that’s not why teachers do what they do,” she said.
The experience culminated with a banquet Aug. 11 at the El Paso Convention Center. It was a black-tie event – “it looks like the Oscars,” Czubinski said – and she was joined by her family and Dell City ISD Supt. Ruben Cervantes. She was also invited to bring one of her students.
“I practically had to pick names out of a hat – I could have chosen so many,” she said. She brought Aurora Bell, now a third grader. “Being able to bring her was awesome,” Czubinski said. “To be there with one of your students – this is what it’s all about.”
Czubinski said she was “treated like a rock star” – and that the experience was “overwhelming.” But as much she appreciated the attention, it was the selection by her Dell City colleagues that meant the most to her.
“These are the people that know me and work with me,” she said. “I told my husband, it didn’t mean as much to me at the regional level as it did at the district level.”
In selecting her as the district’s teacher of the year, Czubinski’s colleagues were honoring her remarkable work in the classroom – the dynamic and nurturing environment she creates, the new readers she fosters. They were also celebrating the way she supports new and first-year teachers, the ballast she provides. She’s a mentor in both formal and informal ways.
“I feel like they’re comfortable enough to come to me if they need help,” Czubinski said, “whether that’s with instruction, or when they’re upset and stressed, and we just fix the problem. I tell them, ‘Here are some ideas, but please make it your own – every teacher has their own flavor of teaching.’”
“They can come and visit with me if they need to,” she said, “and I don’t judge. I know how hard it is – I was there before.”
Czubinski joined Dell City ISD four years ago – and she and her family are a big part of the school. Her husband, Joe, is the school’s athletics director and history teacher. Their oldest son, Chris, is school custodian. Their middle son, Trever, began his teaching career last year, as secondary English and language-arts teacher. And their youngest son, Reilly, is a Dell City School senior.
Czubinski’s passion for teaching was in part sparked by her husband’s experience. Early in their marriage, with young children, Tesha worked while Joe studied education at Angelo State University. When Joe graduated and took a teaching position, Tesha began her studies at Angelo State. She started as a nursing student. But listening to her husband’s stories made Czubinski reconsider her path.
“He would come home and have these wonderful stories – and I just didn’t,” Czubinski said. “He made it look like so much fun. He would talk about how he touched these kids’ hearts, and I wanted to do that.”
Czubinski said that changing her major and career plan was without a doubt the right decision.
“I’ve loved teaching ever since,” she said. “It’s so gratifying – it’s like magic to me. It’s truly, truly my passion.”
In her 18-year career, Czubinski has worked with students from pre-K through seventh grade. She’s teaching second and third graders this year. Early elementary students make “giant steps” in their learning, she said, and that makes teaching them especially exciting.
“I love that you see the growth so much faster,” she said. “They’re so eager to learn. It doesn’t matter what I have for them – they have that energy and that excitement for everything. They’re like little sponges, and it never ceases to amaze me, what they can pick up, and how quickly they pick it up.”
Czubinski’s approach to teaching has changed over the years, as ideas in the field of elementary education have changed. In her college years, the emphasis was on lecturing to students – “I lecture to you, and you do what I’m telling you to do,” she said. Now, the philosophy is more “hands-on” – young students are allowed to take more initiative in their own learning. It’s an approach at which Czubinski excels.
“We give them more credit now for their learning than we did years ago,” Czubinski said, “and they go further than we would ever have taken them.”
Reading instruction illustrates the approach. Students work in groups – Czubinski will work with one group of students in “guided reading,” which allows for one-on-one attention and rigorous instruction, while other groups of students focus on different skills at “learning stations.” Czubinski ensures that students are staying on task, and she said students flourish in this flexible environment.
“It can look like chaos, if you don’t understand what to look for,” she said, “but as long as they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, you kind of have to just let it go, because they’re kids, and that’s how they learn: by speaking to each other, by communicating, by playing with and manipulating things, but taking things apart and putting them together.”
“I tell the new teachers that come, ‘If you’re tired as the end of the day, you’re doing it wrong,’” she said. “‘Sit back and watch them – give them a little bit of instruction, and let them go.’”
Czubinski wants to help new teachers connect with a profession that has meant so much to her.
“It is a hard job, but it can be so rewarding,” she said. “We tell them, ‘Just hang in there – it becomes easier as you put all the nuts and bolts together.’ It’s not the kids – we all go into teaching because we love to be with kids, and we want to teach them something. It’s the lesson planning, the questions of ‘how am I going to teach this? What does that look like? What does classroom management look like?’ We want students to learn routines – but we also want to develop that love of school. We want them to be lifelong learners.”