Jose Armendariz didn’t start out as a teacher. But 17 years after embarking on a career as an elementary school educator, he’s earned a spot among the teachers that are considered Dallas ISD’s best.
In May, Armendariz became the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year in a celebration televised on WFAA.
Armendariz had a three-year career at the U.S. Consulate before deciding to join the family business – teaching. He began working as a bilingual teacher at Pershing Elementary in 2004 through the district’s alternative certification program.
He is still teaching Pershing kindergarteners today, doing work that has been showcased on Univision’s Unimás, helping re-establish the Pershing Elementary PTA, and serving as a member of the Bilingual ESL Cadre — which is a part of the district’s ESL department.
Pershing principal Lourdes Morales-Figueroa said Armendariz is known for nurturing his students and increasing their self-esteem and interest in learning.
“He provides them a nurturing environment and includes parents as crucial team members in their student’s education,” she said.
Teaching kindergarten, Armendariz said, is a joyful occupation.
“It’s their authenticity, their sense of humor, and their sense of play,” he said of the age group he teaches. “I love to play with them, and explore, and teach them how to use their vocabulary. I love to see their faces when they’re getting the jokes.”
Watching them progress, he said, is a happy part of his job – as is fielding excited calls from parents who also see that progress.
But Armendariz said that despite a long and happy teaching career, not once did he think that he would experience pandemic teaching, he said.
“I don’t think anyone could predict that we would be in a situation like this,” he said. “When it started, it caught us off guard – everyone, in every field. As a teacher, I think that we are one of those professions that really learned while we were working.
“We transformed our way of teaching – even experienced teachers like me, we felt like we were novice teachers – we were learning everything from scratch.”
He spent the summer getting himself ready and organized, he said, which also provided him with more opportunities to engage with various fellowships and training with the district.
But he felt like he was able to get comfortable with the new pandemic-necessary approaches, because “Dallas ISD was prepared and provided different learning platforms … and immediately offered different trainings.”
For people who might want to become teachers, Armendariz said they should be prepared to call upon more than just book smarts.
“If you’re interested in becoming a teacher, you need to understand what empathy is, and you need to be able to share mindful lessons with students that could reach to their heart, and that they can identify with,” he said.
A version of this story was originally published in the June issue of Preston Hollow People. To see that issue, click here.
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