Student-Teacher Pairs Re-Unite as Colleagues

Former students return home to teach
By: Todd Martin
Making connections is the way the principal of Killeen Elementary School describes the culture developing around the new school.
Principal Tammy Thornhill said the new school on Rancier Avenue that consolidates East and West Ward elementary schools is drawing staff members who want to come home.
Illustrating the point, Thornhill read a poem a third-grader at East Ward Elementary School wrote 20 years ago as the new Killeen Elementary School staff gathered for the first time Tuesday.
As the principal began reading, third-grade teacher Gabriela Gonzalez realized the words were hers.
Her third-grade teacher from two decades ago, Monica Proctor, quietly made her way over to the unsuspecting Gonzalez and revealed herself to the surprised younger teacher.
This year student and teacher are reunited as teacher colleagues at the same location where they first met in 2001.
Gonzalez taught at Maxdale Elementary School last year and was excited to move over to Killeen Elementary School to serve children in the neighborhood where she grew up.
When she got the job, she consulted the school roster, but didn’t realize her former teacher married and had a different last name.
Proctor is experiencing a homecoming of sorts this year, too. She taught at East Ward 19 years, moved with the rest of the school staff and students to Maude Moore Wood Elementary School for two years and is back at the newly-built Killeen Elementary School.
Now the pair share a passion to build relationships that help their students shine in the classroom and in life.
“Throughout my elementary years, I struggled in school because English was my second language,” Gonzalez said. “(Mrs. Proctor) was one of a handful of teachers who made me feel safe in the classroom.”
Sharing a class photo from the 2001-2002 school year, Proctor said she remembered a tall third-grader who was shy, almost never spoke in class, but worked hard.
“It’s surreal to me,” Proctor said of the reunion with her former student. “I can see her drive and her heart. That is what I try to instill in my students. I am so proud of her.”
“I am grateful and excited,” said Gonzalez. “She has all that wisdom. I want to be a great teacher like she was for me.”
For all their excitement to work together on the third floor as third- and fourth-grade teachers, the pair seemed just as excited to be back in the middle of Killeen in a new school that feels familiar.
“It means that I can help the community where I grew up,” said Gonzalez. “I can continue the tradition.” Also, her own son will attend kindergarten at Killeen Elementary School this year.
Killeen Elementary School includes other reunited student-teacher pairs.
Last year, Samantha Heckathorn began her teaching career at West Ward Elementary School where her former teacher Jennifer Schoel was campus instructional specialist. Now, Schoel is assistant principal and Heckathorn is teaching second grade at Killeen Elementary School.
Also, Noemi Davila and Stephanie Plair-Quintanilla are a former student and teacher now working together as bilingual teachers.