Margarita Garcia: ‘Education is not just something we do at school’

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Margarita Garcia is the bilingual/English-as-a-Second-Language program district coordinator for Kaufman Independent School District, where she has taught since 2007. She is one of nine public school educators who received the 2020 BEST—Baptist Educators Serving Texans—award.

Garcia is a member of Community Life Church in Kaufman and a graduate of Baptist University of the Américas and Dallas Baptist University. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on being a Christian in public education.

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, in a small town called Nuevo Casas Grandes. At age 12, my family immigrated to Tucson, Ariz.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

At age 14, I was invited to a church weekend event. On the last day—Sunday—I was eager to respond to the invitation to be saved. To my surprise, the invitation never was made. So, at the end of the service, my sister walked me to the altar where we both kneeled, and I surrendered my life to Jesus.

Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

My education journey took a little longer than most would experience. Right after high school, I attended community college and earned an associate’s degree in dental assisting.

In 2003, I attended Baptist University of the Américas and graduated in 2007 with a degree in biblical and theological studies, with a minor concentration in Christian education.

I worked as an elementary teacher and continued my education.

In 2017, I graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a Master of Education degree in educational leadership.

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I also hold a principal certification.

About education

Why do you feel called into education?

I believe God uses education to transform people’s lives—big and small—and to empower them to become all God created them to be.

As an educator, I have the opportunity every day to inspire others to learn and reach their God-given potential. This is my story.

I was a newcomer and non-English speaker in 7th grade, sitting in a classroom without being able to understand. I was an at-risk student with minimal chances to succeed. School is hard when you don’t speak the language. But I was also a student placed in a classroom where the teacher embraced me and invested so much in me to the point that I loved school.

One educator loved me well and impacted my life to become what I am today. I want to do the same.

How does being a Christian influence your work in education?

Being a Christian defines who I am. My goal every day is to do God’s will.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

These three values—justice, kindness and to walk humbly—guide the choices I make every day in my career and in my daily life.

What is your favorite aspect of education? Why?

My favorite aspect of education is relationship. Without a relationship, no teaching or learning can happen. A positive relationship between students and educators opens doors to learning and removes barriers to teaching.

“Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved”(Nicholas A. Ferroni).

What one aspect of education gives you the greatest joy?

Parent involvement. There is nothing like watching parents “roll up their sleeves” to learn, so they can teach their children.

Parent involvement can be done in many shapes and forms, from attending school events regularly to reading a book at home with their children every night. Every little effort has a huge impact on student growth.

Our schools go above and beyond to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of our students, but there are so many things that can only get accomplished at home.

Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing education.

Parent involvement in education, student’s limited vocabulary and remote learning.

Research shows students whose parents actively are involved in their education are more successful academically and emotionally.

Some students demonstrate poor vocabulary, not only in English, but also in their home language. Very few are exposed to conversations where they can practice communication skills and nurture vocabulary.

While remote learning might be a normal form of education for some, there is a great number of students and educators who encountered this challenge for the first time. Lack of adequate technology, absence of parent support, and other academic difficulties make this a challenging experience for everybody—educators, students and parents.

What is the impact of education on your family?

I am the first generation with a master’s degree. I chose to continue my education despite the challenges I had to overcome. It took me longer than many others, but it was possible.

Today, my children don’t wonder whether they will continue their education. My oldest son was able to go to college right after high school—no breaks, no interruptions, just a normal path. My youngest, who is in third grade, talks about college like something everyone does.

Higher education is an everyday conversation with my family. It no longer is an impossible journey, or a goal so far away and unable to be reached. It is a prayer away, if you will, a choice filled with opportunities that can be accomplished with God’s help.

What do you wish more people knew about education?

I wish people knew education is not just something we do at school. Education begins at home, and it affects everything we do.

Every moment is a teachable moment and an opportunity to influence the mind. We can’t afford to waste it. Students are like sponges soaking up every experience, good or bad.

Education is not one person’s responsibility. It takes a village—from home to school to church—to teach our children.

About Margarita

Why are you Baptist?

I became a Baptist through marriage, and I love it.

I believe salvation only comes through God alone. Jesus came and died for our sins. He resurrected and is alive. He will come again for his church. We are created after God’s own image. We are deeply loved by God.

My education was supported by Baptists, and some of the greatest people and churches that invested in my family come from Baptist faith. There is a testimony of love, acceptance and encouragement, not a religion, but a lifestyle.

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?

During my time at Baptist University of the Américas, I was assigned a mentor for the first time. Dr. Nora Lozano, who also was my theology professor, met with me throughout the semester as required. After I completed my schooling, she continued investing in me as part of her daily life. She was my mentor and also became my friend.

I learned quickly that Dr. Lozano didn’t just teach the Bible so passionately; she lived by it. This is the greatest impact she made in my life. She encouraged me to continue my education, to develop my leadership, and to serve alongside for the kingdom of God.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Mathew 14:22-33. Peter recognized Jesus in the middle of the storm and did not hesitate to step out of the boat and walk on water. It takes a lot of courage and trust to do that.

After a little while Peter started sinking, but Jesus was there. The Lord stretched out his arm, reached to Peter, pulled him out of the water, placed him in the boat and calmed the storm. Isn’t that what he does for us every day?

This story reminds me it is OK to be brave, even when the storm is strong. Even when it feels like I’m drowning, Jesus always will be there to pull me out and take me to a safe place.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mathew 14:27).

Name something about you that would surprise people who know you.

I was married at the age of 17. I had my firstborn at 18 and graduated high school at 19. My journey taught me to be resilient, strive for my goals and trust in the Lord.

My favorite part is that I didn’t walk this journey alone. My husband and family were there for me every step of the way. The wonderful grace and mercy of God has met me at my lowest, and also brought me to my highest.

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