Alejandra Ortega, BS ’15, became Houston’s Teacher of the Year in only her second year of teaching. Clearly confident in a classroom now, she has not always been.
As a child, Alejandra dreaded school, where she was picked on for being shy and bookish. Shut down, she faded into the background until some middle school teachers pulled her out of her shell. “They went out of their way to change my life,” Alejandra remembers. Now she is committed to doing the same for students back in Houston’s Fifth Ward.
“It dawned on me — what if I could do that for somebody else, and then they could do it for somebody else? What kind of impact would that have?” she asks. “I just had that feeling that this is the way I could be a part of something greater than myself.”
After graduating high school as valedictorian, she was admitted to The University of Texas at Austin, the first in her family to go to college. Alejandra wasted no time preparing for her career as a teacher. In her first semester, she got classroom experience through the UTeach program.
UTeach gives undergraduates in any major the opportunity to earn middle school or high school teaching certification through hands-on experience. The program’s goal is to strengthen Texas classrooms by producing the best teachers.
Incredibly focused, Alejandra graduated in just two-and-a-half years with a degree in applied learning and development and a minor in Spanish. Only six months after graduating, she landed a job at one of her alma maters, McReynolds Middle School.
After her first year, Alejandra’s natural leadership abilities and drive led her to take on the role of department head and begin running the mentorship program for new teachers.
Alejandra feels middle school is where teachers can make the most impact, and she would know. Those were the teachers who changed her world. And now it’s Alejandra’s turn.