All teachers want their students to achieve excellence in school and in life and, in this quest, they often achieve excellence themselves.
Videos: Dr. Rebecca Palacios
See more from Rebecca in our Meet the Expert interview, as well as related classroom videos and articles!
Such is the case of Rebecca Palacios, or "Doctora Palacios" as her class of four-year-olds call her — and they know she's not the kind of doctor that gives shots. She teaches pre-kindergarten in a dual language program at Zavala Special Emphasis School in Corpus Christi, TX. While her class is 99% Hispanic only about half of them speak Spanish as their first language since many of the children are second, third generation (and beyond) Hispanics …just like Rebecca! She was born and raised in Corpus Christi and went on to accept her first teaching position at Lamar Elementary, which is in the same neighborhood where she grew up and where she currently teaches.
During her first year of teaching, Rebecca witnessed the height of desegregation of the Corpus Christi Independent School District and the first year of court-ordered busing. Some of the students in her class were quite upset by the busing: one little boy in her class said, "I don't want to be taught by a Mexican teacher" and threw a chair at her! He obviously did not know that she and both her parents were born in Texas, just like him. Today, the school district is a different place, and teachers like Rebecca are helping it become better everyday.
Rebecca is passionate about teaching — you can hear it in her voice… She knew early on that she "wanted to be a teacher of little children." "I was so little," she tells us — remembering being 3 or 4 years old and already wanting to be teacher. She also thoroughly enjoyed being a student: one summer she saw that other children (ELLs) were attending a class prior to the first day of school; she was very disappointed that she couldn't join them because she knew too much English! Rebecca clearly recalls being in class and trying to remember the strategies and activities her teachers were using; making note of things that made class exciting and motivating; hoping to one-day use them in a classroom of her own. She did not have to wait long for that first teaching experience: she began volunteering for summer Head Start programs while only in elementary school.
As with many teachers, her most gratifying moments come from having her (now grown-up) students come up to her and say, "You made me want to become a teacher." If you think of the fact that these are students who remember her from when they were 3 or 4 years old, one can easily understand the emotion of the moment and why Dra. Palacios will call these moments the "highlights of [her] career" — incomparable to any amount of money or recognition.
Moreover, this comes from the woman who was the only teacher to speak at the funeral for Albert Shanker in Washington, D.C. in 1997! (President Bill Clinton attended the funeral, and later that year asked Dr. Rebecca Palacios to introduce him at a Teaching Standards Event.) They chose her to speak because she and Al Shanker were part of the group that founded the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 1987. She is currently the Vice-chair of the board, and was among the first teachers in Texas to achieve certification.
Rebecca also had the opportunity to collaborate in the development of the original Pre-kindergarten Curriculum Guidelines for the Texas Education Agency — she was part of a multi-field team that came together to look at the building blocks and important teaching standards in Pre-kindergarten. She has also led a delegation of early childhood education professionals in a People-to-People Ambassador Program to China, fostering bilateral exchanges with their professional counterparts.
Dr. Rebecca Palacios has spent her career as a pre-kindergarten teacher in Corpus Christi, Texas, most recently serving as a dual language pre-kindergarten teacher at Zavala Special Emphasis School. She currently consults for ABCMouse.com and also holds certification from the prestigious National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, on which she served as the Vice Chair. She has received numerous prestigious awards and honors for being an outstanding educator from nationwide organizations and was the first Latina inductee to the National Teachers Hall of Fame. She's served as an adjunct professor, has led delegations of educators abroad to learn about foreign education systems, and currently serves on the AFT's nationwide advisory task force on English language learners. Dr. Palacios holds degrees from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and the University of Texas at Austin.