Rios named Santa Rita’s first Teacher of the Year



First-grade teacher Teresa Rios isn’t a fan of attention. When Santa Rita Elementary administrators held a special after-school meeting in the gym to make a big announcement, all of a sudden, Rios was the center of it. She is Santa Rita Elementary’s first-ever Teacher of the Year.

“I was shocked. I can’t put it into words to express how I feel,” Rios said while holding back tears. “I’m humbled and honored. I dislike attention on myself. I’m not a person who thrives on attention. Knowing this was voted on by my peers, this is such an honor.”

Rios credits her team, the same peers who voted for her, for her success this school year.

“I couldn’t do this without them,” she said. “I couldn’t do this without their partnership. We’re here to make kids successful. It’s teamwork. I couldn’t do it without the parents supporting me or an administration that goes above and beyond.”

Heading into a new year in the middle of a pandemic left staff pondering many unknowns. Rios, along with many others, took on the challenges as they presented themselves.

“We didn’t know what it would look like at the beginning of the year,” said Rios. “With the way things ended last year, it was so heartbreaking. Heading into this year, there were so many unknowns. Knowing that we were going to open a new school encouraged us.”

Adapting to new ways of doing things proved difficult at first, but Rios adjusted accordingly.

“It’s been a challenge having to reteach our brains to do things that we normally do that is good teaching,” said Rios. “Having to readjust our minds to social distance and wear our masks has been difficult. A lot of this has been teamwork and collaboration. We can sit down and come up with engaging activities to keep learning fun and purposeful. It’s been different and a challenge.”

The stress of teaching is already high. The addition of COVID and all that comes with it only adds fuel to the fire. To get through it, Rios relied on others.

“I’ve coped because of my family, God, my school, my peers, and the kids,” she said. “I’m not one who loves to go out and do things but not being able to have been hard. Having my family support me and having my team support me helps so much.”

Rios considers herself one of the lucky ones because she was able to work with students face-to-face all year.

“I’ve had students come in from remote to my classroom. It’s been interesting to see when kids move from remote to classroom,” said Rios. “It was wonderful to see the excitement on their faces when they came back to school. That’s why we’re here. Remote teachers are amazing, but I am so grateful to do face-to-face because I am a relationship builder. I like to see my students face to face.”

With a school year unlike any other, she’s experienced coming to a close Rios is going to use the summer to relax and reload for next year.

“I am going to enjoy time off with my kids. I have two of them graduating, one from UT and the other from UTSA. I have four kids, and we are going to enjoy some time together and go somewhere. I don’t know where yet, because right now my goal is to make it to the end of the school year.”