What Texas’ educator shortage looks like for one pre-K teacher

Michelle Cardenas, Hillcrest Elementary School bilingual pre-k teacher in Del Valle ISD, teaches a literacy lesson about the letter Y (NEED TO GET CLARIFICATION ON THIS ACTIVITY) to two classrooms on Apr. 21, 2022. She projects a notebook of vocabulary words and shares her laptop camera to Alejo's classroom using Google Meets. This screen is also shown on a TV? in Cardenas' classroom.

Esperanza Alejo, Cardenas' TA, has her students present their drawings to Cardenas' class using a projector on Apr. 21, 2022. After Cardenas' class split into two different rooms, one managed by Cardenas and her substitute, Nancy Lopez, and the other by her TA, Esperanza Alejo, Cardenas still planned all the curriculum. The students do the same activities and have the same lessons in both classrooms. Some of the lessons, like the drawing vocabulary activity (NEED CLARIFICATION ON THIS ACTIVITY), are done at the same time with a Google Meets video call bridging the classrooms. "I didn't want them to feel like they were pushed out of my classroom - that they were still just an extension of my classroom," Cardenas said.

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Cardenas prepares a biscuit for one of her meals on Apr. 27, 2022. She has a few small meals throughout the day on this diet plan, which, in addition to helping her lose weight, is more convenient during the busy school day.

Esperanza Alejo helps watch students during naptime on Apr. 27, 2022. Watching 30 kids alone is a safety hazard, so Alejo and Cardenas supervise naptime together in a third, empty classroom.

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Michelle Cardenas works on scrapbooks for her students at home while spending time with her daughters on May 24, 2022. Cardenas was inspired to create scrapbooks for her students because she has a scrapbook from when she was in daycare, but her husband does not have many pictures of himself as a kid. She wants her students to be able to look back at their year in pre-k, which they may not remember. 

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“They’ve made comments to me before like, ‘I wish you didn't have to work today,’ "

“You can go into another job and you get to walk out that door of that job and not bring any - any work home with you. And you're getting paid more," Cardenas said.

“Your students at school end up becoming like your own kids," Cardenas said.

Michelle Cardenas helps students with centers on Apr. 27, 2022. “Right now schools, anywhere, everywhere, it's just this uncertainty of what's going to happen," Cardenas said. "It's scary as a parent, because, who's going to teach my babies? Like, who's going to be left out there as a teacher to teach my own personal kids?"

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