By Raquel Hendrickson
Alex Rayas remembers getting to do science experiments for the first time in fifth grade.
“It was both exciting and challenging at the same time,” she said.
Now she teaches science and math to fifth graders at Santa Cruz Elementary, where she gets to share her favorite subject from her own elementary days. For the record, she liked PE a lot, too, “because it taught me how to be a team player.”
As a college student, she was a paraprofessional at an elementary school and knew she had found her calling.
“I realized that I loved working with students,” she said. “I felt I could make a difference in fostering their creativity and providing students with the skills they would need to reach their highest potential.”
She considers the highlight of her 11-year career to be hosting a summer science camp for students in third through fifth grade. It was an opportunity to expose children to the fun of science and see their enthusiasm for science experiments and projects.
Motivating students to that kind of excitement is exactly what she loves about teaching.
“My students have taught me that they love to share their ideas and strategies with fellow classmates,” she said. “We have many leaders in our classrooms; it’s about giving students the opportunity to lead.”
Rayas and her family moved to Maricopa from Texas in 2012. She quickly saw teachers in the Maricopa Unified School District rising to the challenges they faced.
“I like that our schools are filled with teachers who are very passionate about their profession. These teachers go above and beyond what it takes to make the classrooms and schools work,” she said. “ As we are limited in resources, our teachers work together to help each other whether we are at the same school site or from another school site. We are working and collaborating together to make a difference for our students.”
Still, Rayas would like to see more academic resources for elementary grades. Carrying her fondness for PE, she said a variety of after-school sports for fourth-sixth grade would also be a plus.
Fifth grade math and science teacher, Santa Cruz Elementary
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education
Family: Husband, 11-year-old daughter
Teaching positions you’ve held: First grade through sixth grade
Years in Education: 11 years
First job out of college: Second grade teacher in Cartwright School District
Hobbies: Running, hiking and gardening
First year with current school: 2012
What advice do you give parents of elementary schoolchildren? Read. Read to your child. Read with your child.
What was the best advice you received about your own education? Being a teacher means that you should get to know your students. It’s important for them to know you care.
What have your students taught you? My students have taught me that they love to share their ideas and strategies with fellow classmates. We have many leaders in our classrooms; it’s about giving students the opportunity to lead.