Beltrán and Czubinski Are Dell City ISD Teachers of the Year
Congratulations to Trever Czubinski and Peggy Beltrán, Dell City ISD's Teachers of the Year for 2020-2021!
A committee of Dell City educators selected the two teachers, and Principal Carlos A. Contreras made the announcement Thursday, Feb. 18. Czubinski, Dell City's secondary English teacher, and Beltrán, the school's third- and fourth-grade teacher, will join other standout educators from El Paso and Hudspeth counties in the running for regional and state Teacher of the Year. Beltrán is a veteran educator, with 30 years of teaching experience. Czubinski is in his fourth year of teaching. Both plan to stay on at Dell City ISD.
Contreras praised the two teachers for their commitment to students, and for the passion and creativity they bring to their work.
“We are really blessed to have both of them,” he said.
Czubinski is the son of educators – his parents, Joe and Tesha, are previous Dell City Teachers of the Year. Their example was part of Trever's inspiration for becoming a teacher, but Contreras said Czubinski has “truly come into his own.” He's developed and grown confident in his own distinctive approach to the craft.
“He's hit his stride,” Contreras said. “He's really finding out what his strengths are and what some of his challengers are.”
Beltrán taught at Dell City in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, left for two years and returned this fall. Contreras said she “fit right in” upon her return, and that her experience and expertise are a boon to students, and to her fellow teachers.
“She's more than deserving,” Contreras said of Beltrán's selection as Teacher of the Year. “She's always striving to do what's best for the kids.”
Contreras said Beltrán plays a vital role in mentoring fellow Dell City elementary teachers who are new to the profession. Contreras said she's participated in extra professional development, to better be able to support her colleagues.
“She's really taken those teachers under her wing,” Contreras said.
Beltrán began teaching in 1991. She was nominated for Teacher of the Year at Horizon Middle School, in Clint, where she taught for 15 years. She said to receive the honor at this point in her career was gratifying – though it didn't really sink in until she shared the news with her children.
“They said, 'Oh, that's awesome, Mom!' and 'You deserve it, Mom!' and 'It was about time, Mom!,” Beltrán said. “That's when I started getting more excited.”
Beltrán said that returning to Dell City ISD has been “like heaven.” She retired from teaching in Texas in 2018, and went to teach in Anthony, New Mexico.
After her experience in Dell City, Beltrán said the larger New Mexico district wasn't a good fit. And retirement definitely didn't suit her.
“When you're at home, and you're not really active – I didn't feel useful,” she said. “I still felt that I had something to give. I still had that energy, and I still wanted it.”
Beltrán said that returning to Dell City ISD was “a very good decision.”
It's the students here that set the school apart, she said.
“The kids here – it's a different caliber,” she said. “These kids are respectful. They still want to learn. They're still moldable.”
Whether it's the small class size, or the close-knit nature of the community, Beltrán said that even students here who've had traumatic childhood experiences remain open, warm and ready to engage with their teachers and peers.
Dell City ISD is also set apart by the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration among its teachers, Beltrán said. Beltrán has had colleagues elsewhere who jealously guarded their techniques and resources. That's not the case at Dell City.
“None of us are so 'into ourselves' that we're not going to share,” she said. “Our teachers are open and willing to help each other.”
Beltrán said that team spirit pays off – in the quality of education students received. She said that in her years at Clint ISD, a core of teachers came to know one another's strengths and quirks, and learned to complement, support and inspire one another. She said something similar is developing among Dell City faculty.
And though she may be a veteran, Beltrán said the mentoring is “a two-way street.” Beltrán shares strategies and resources with younger teachers. But she said she also turns to them for support – especially when it comes to technology.
“I was just telling Ms. Sanchez, 'I feel as if you're mentoring me, especially when it comes to the computer stuff,'” Beltrán said. “I'm not the sort to say 'I know everything,' because I don't.”
And after three decades as a teacher, she still finds the profession challenging – and satisfying, especially when she can help students make an intellectual connection or breakthrough.
“It's the 'ah-hah!' moments, that – 'I didn't know that!',” Beltrán said. “That's always a thrill. When you can see the light in their eyes come on: That's the most rewarding part of teaching, at any grade level.”
Teachers are often at their best when they're drawing from their own strengths and interests, and Principal Contreras said Czubinski's success in the classroom exemplifies that. Czubinski is bringing his own gifts as a writer and artist to his work as a teacher. An example of that, Contreras said, are the “gameboards” Czubinski creates. Czubinski has invented and illustrated multiple board games – which he uses to teach vocabulary and other literary and language-arts content.
“That's one of his talents,” Contreras said. “That's his niche – I've told him he should market them. The kids will be playing, and they don't even know that they're learning. They're learning and having fun at the same time.”
The gameboards are elaborately designed and illustrated. Czubinski said the technique incorporates his longtime love of art – and also his experience with athletics and coaching. Czubinski was a high-school and college athlete, and, with his father, coaches Cougar sports. He said that competition has a way of focusing students' attention – and the gameboards tap into that.
“I'm always looking for more creative ways to get them to know the material,” he said, “and as soon as there's a point system, it makes them want to try a little harder. The point of course is to win the game, but every time they land on one of the question marks, I can ask them one of the questions we're focused on. ”
The approach has paid off – Czubinski has seen his students' vocabulary knowledge improve through the games.
Students are currently at work on book fair projects – three-dimensional displays illustrating their comprehension of what they're reading. It's another way Czubinski is integrating hands-on creativity with English learning.
Czubinski said it's an honor to be selected Teacher of the Year. His father received the recognition during Czubinski's first year in Dell City – and Czubinski said that when he joined his father at the Teachers of the Year celebration in El Paso, he knew “that was going to be [his] goal.”
“It is an honor,” he said, “and I'll try to represent Dell City as best I can.”
Statewide, test scores show that Texas students struggle with English and reading. Dell City scores have reflected that pattern. Czubinski said that changing that trend doesn't happen overnight.
“It's not a quick growth,” he said. “It's very, very slow. That's always been my battle, but it's what I want to do. And I enjoy it. I'm one of those nerds that can talk about grammar and English, and have fun doing it.”
Czubinski knows from his own experience as an English major, at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, that “one-on-one interaction is really key” when it comes to reading, writing and books. In large classes, students can avoid participating and talking about the material – Czubinski works hard to pull Dell City students into deeper thinking and engagement.
And he hopes to overcome the resistance – and communicate his own passion for reading to his students.
Though it's early in his career, Czubinski said it's already been quite a journey. A beginning teacher faces a steep learning curve, but Czubinski has honed his skills. Improving his lesson planning has been key. In his first year, it often took him five hours to plan for a single class. Now, he said, he can plan for all five of his classes in a few hours.
And he's learned to be adaptable, to improvise when things don't go as planned. The Covid pandemic – and having to teach some of his students remotely – has further brought that home. He notes that students, too, are having to adapt to unexpected events.
“What I have had to learn to do, and to learn to do quickly, is to be on my toes, and to adjust,” he said. “If you can't adjust, you won't survive here. And the kids too are having to learn that.”
Through the difficulties of the pandemic, and of being a new teacher, Czubinski said he hasn't doubted that “this is what [he] wants to be doing.”
Thank you, Ms. Beltrán and Mr. Czubinski, our Teachers of the Year, for your hard work in the classroom, and for everything you've done and continue to do for Dell City students!