by Art Young
Returning to one’s home is a literary theme that has been used for thousands of years. In the 8th century, Greek poet Homer wrote about the arduous return of Odysseus to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after being gone for more than 20 years. Because of this story, the English word “odyssey” has come to refer to an epic voyage. While perhaps not on the scale of “The Odyssey,” the trip back “home” by three women to the school district where they once studied has been equally epic.
Meet elementary teacher Katia Zamorano, school nurse Esther Lee and elementary teacher Callie Craddock. All three are products of the Lewisville Independent School District and their reasons for returning to the district where they grew up and flourished, are as varied as their personalities. However, what they have in common is an educational foundation that has made them who they are today.
The Life-Long Dream of Katia Zamorano is Realized
Katia Zamorano graduated from Lewisville High School in 2004, and this year she has returned to LISD to teach the second grade. To say she is happy about her prospects is an understatement. She says she has “always wanted to become a teacher” and getting to practice that profession in her hometown is extremely gratifying.
She graduated from Midwestern University and then earned a master’s degree from Dallas Baptist University. She then spent a year doing research on bilingual education before following her heart back to LISD.
“When I attended LHS, there was a program that allowed us to go to elementary schools and get classroom credit,” Zamorano said. “I knew I wanted to teach based on my great experiences from taking part in that program.
“My parents were immigrants from South America and Lewisville became my home and my family. I never had a doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do when I completed college. I wanted to come back and teach in Lewisville schools. I student-taught in a couple of LISD schools after graduating college and after my year of research, I met teachers from across the U.S. It was then that I realized I wanted to be back in the classroom.”
Esther Lee Loves Keeping Kids Healthy
The healthcare industry is booming and the demand for high quality nurses has never been greater. Esther Lee, who is now a Registered Nurse (R.N.), was truly in the right place, at the right time, when she graduated from The Colony High School in 2004.
“When I was in high school, I was focused on going to college,” Lee said. “I come from a very traditional Korean family and there was no other option but to attend college. In high school, I was unsure about what I wanted to major in or what profession I would enter after college.
“I realized I wanted to be in the medical field, but I didn’t know what part of that field I wanted to enter. In my second year of college, I decided that I wanted to become a nurse. I received my nursing degree from West Coast University.
“I worked at Dallas Methodist Hospital for three years,” she said. “It was a great hospital for learning because you see a little bit of everything. While I was there, I substituted for another school district as a school nurse and this is where I got my introduction to a school environment. I loved the experience. Everyone – kids, parents and administrators – was very appreciative of substitute nurses because there were not that many of us. The more I substituted, the more I got to know the children and the more I fell in love with the job.”
When asked about her memories of LISD, Lee didn’t miss a beat.
“My teachers were awesome,” she said. “I had a chemistry teacher, Mr. Fowler, with whom we went to church for many years. All these years later, he and I are still friends and he thinks of me as his family. My high school counselor was also amazing. When I was planning for college, he answered all of my questions. These educators made a big difference for me.”
A Second-Generation Educator: Callie Craddock Comes Home to Teach
It hasn’t been that long since third-grade teacher Callie Craddock was a student at Heritage elementary school in LISD. She graduated from Marcus High School in 2015 and this school year is her first year as a professional educator.
“Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Craddock said. “Both of my parents are educators and seeing how happy their jobs made them encouraged me to follow the same path. I’ve always enjoyed going to school and it’s always been my passion!
“I went to college at the University of North Texas and part of the reason I chose this university was because this would allow me to student-teach at LISD.”
As with the other two alumni, Craddock has nothing but great memories about her years in the district.
“I have had so many positive experiences in the school district,” she said. “From my elementary school years all the way through high school, I’ve have had teachers that put so much time and effort into me. They truly cared about how I was performing – not just as a student, but also as an individual.
“Starting in elementary, these teachers helped me believe in myself and they encouraged me to follow my dreams, which I am able to do now. This means the world to me and I will cherish this forever. Since I now get to teach in this district, I will strive to build positive relationships with my kids every day.”
The Best Arguments for Public School Education: Katia, Esther and Callie
These three women are the products of the Lewisville Independent School District, one of the best public school districts in the nation. They are the best and the brightest and they have chosen to return to the district that helped them get there.
“I was always in a public school throughout my pre-college years,” Lee said. “My public school education totally prepared me for college. I excelled there because of what I learned in this dynamic learning environment.
“Since I have returned, I have had a chance to reflect on our school district. I have noticed that the kids here are really smart and the teachers encourage all of their skill sets. Some public schools can be stretched a little, where the teachers have larger classes, but this is not the case in LISD. Most importantly, these teachers love what they do.”
“I feel that public schools are here to serve our communities,” she said. “Since communities are constantly changing, I really love the fact that public schools can also change. As they change and expand, we can take advantage of those new opportunities.
“As public school teachers, we have the resources and opportunity to keep up with the latest trends in education and support the important things that are happening in our neighborhoods.”
First-year teacher Craddock sees a powerful force in the diversity of public education.
“Besides the great teachers I had, one thing that encouraged me to return was the great diversity of the school district,” she said. “This diversity is not just by race or culture, but it is also about the vast array of educational options offered to students. This district has exemplary collaboration among students, parents, teachers and the communities we serve. It allows the students to get real-world applications to what they are learning.
“With public schools, the students come from a wide range of incomes, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds and this makes the school setting very authentic. Students get to connect with all kinds of people and in the process, they celebrate those differences and their commonalities.”