Olivia Rosas, 13, knew she wanted to be a teacher in the first grade. Her teacher, Regan Sanchez, “made me want to come to school every single day because she made school so fun and intriguing to me, and made me want to learn more,” Olivia said. “She had such a welcoming smile. Whenever you walked into her classroom, you just knew it was going to be a fun and eventful day.”
Over the past two years, the pandemic has taken a toll on teachers and educators. Many predict a massive shortage of professional educators as teachers reach burnout and resign or retire. Despite the challenges, Olivia knows teaching is a career that can make the world kinder and better and help others. Teaching, like she experienced in Sanchez’s class, can be one of the most joyful jobs anyone could ever hold.
“My dreams are just pretty much to make the world a better place, so that anybody can leave their mark on this Earth and for future generations,” Olivia said.
San Antonio’s largest school district, Northside ISD, the nonprofit network CAST Schools, and the area’s largest public university, the University of Texas at San Antonio, believe that, too. These partners have come together to create CAST Teach High School, a rigorous public high school for young people who aspire to go into education — as teachers, coaches, librarians, education technologists and more. These partners understand that education jobs are a cornerstone of San Antonio’s economy. By planting a flag to create a school for future teachers and educators, we recognize how important this field is to our local economy.
CAST Schools were designed six years ago in partnership with business leaders and public school districts as a regional economic mobility strategy. Historically, the San Antonio region has imported nearly 2,000 educators a year. A recent college graduate can earn up to $54,000 as a novice teacher. Other jobs in education, including administration roles, talent development and supporting nonprofits, can pay salaries ranging from $54,000 to more than $300,000 for superintendents in large school districts.
Now in four different local school districts, each CAST school connects young people to high-demand, high-growth, high-wage jobs in San Antonio. Students are nurtured as they pursue both college and career goals. With CAST Teach, the sixth school in the network, we plan to create a national model school that showcases everything we have learned from our previous schools: hands-on learning, connections to real-world industries and projects, mentorship and internships. Teachers will serve as guides who personalize a young person’s learning journey.
If Olivia were to change one thing about schools, she says, it would be their busyness, the moving from class to class, the emphasis on learning specific content. Young people need more time to reflect and to process what they are learning, she says.
At CAST Teach High School, under the leadership of principal Ericka Olivarez, we will listen to voices like Olivia’s to remake school in a way that puts young people on a path toward success, while remembering to make it a joy-filled place where students want to go every day. Moreover, we will honor their individual dreams and help them achieve them.
Olivia’s No. 1 goal as a teacher? “I just want to show students they can reach their goals, whatever goals they set, they can be reached.” With the opening of CAST Teach, we are professing our belief that education is the cornerstone of a strong economy in San Antonio and that focusing on education can and will keep San Antonio strong.
Jeanne Russell is the executive director of the CAST Schools network; Ericka Olivarez is the principal of CAST Teach High School; Brian Woods is the superintendent of Northside Independent School District.
Jeanne Russell, Ericka Olivarez and Dr. Brian Woods