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

First: Cardenas prepares classroom materials before the students come into the classroom on April 21, 2022. Cardenas makes two copies of all materials, one for her class and one for a teaching assistant’s class. At one point, Cardenas had 20 students in her class and the assistant had 10. Middle: Cardenas cleans up literacy centers and starts putting out math centers while the students watch a music video. Last: Cardenas helps students count syllables.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Cardenas teaches a vocabulary lesson on a video call connected to her second classroom of students. “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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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Teaching assistant Esperanza Alejo has students present their drawings to Cardenas’ class using a projector. After Cardenas’ class split into two different rooms — one managed by Cardenas and the other by Alejo — Cardenas was still responsible for planning curriculum for all of the students.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Cardenas helps a student during class.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

First: Cardenas smiles during a check-in on teaching assistant Alejo’s classroom. “It’s been like this ongoing process of different teachers in the other pre-K classrooms,” Cardenas said. “I spend all this time training and prepping them and then they go somewhere else.” Last: Students look at worms during a library lesson. Cardenas always stays for the lessons to help keep the students focused and translate into Spanish when needed.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Cardenas watches over her students and receives hugs as students wait in the lunch line.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Cardenas prepares a biscuit for one of her meals. She has a few small meals throughout the busy school day.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Esperanza Alejo helps monitor students during nap time. Watching 30 kids alone is a safety hazard, so Alejo and Cardenas supervise nap time together in a third classroom that’s unused.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Cardenas speaks at the annual Texas State Teachers Association convention in Houston on April 29, 2022. An active member of the association, Cardenas advocates for teachers and students. “I hate when people leave the teaching profession,” Cardenas said. “You want people to stick around, you don’t want people to get burnt out, you don’t want people to hate their job.”

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

First: Cardenas speaks to the Region 10 members of TSTA during dinner at the convention. Last: Cardenas talks with her TSTA colleagues by the hotel pool. “Having that group, like the support of the teachers, is very important — like to have a group of friends that you can talk to about what’s going on,” Cardenas said.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

In the last few weeks of the 2021-22 school year, Cardenas works on scrapbooks for her students while spending time with her daughters. “They’ve made comments to me before like, ‘I wish you didn’t have to work today,'” she said. “It’s very hard because it’s like sometimes we, in our personal lives, give up certain things because we have the personal responsibility for our students.”

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

First: Cardenas looks through pages of the scrapbook she is putting together. “Your students at school end up becoming like your own kids,” Cardenas said. Last: Cardenas talks with her husband, Rick, in their home.

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Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

“It’s just this uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” Cardenas said about the teacher shortage. “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?”

Credit:
Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

 

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