(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Teresa Cuellar received a surprise visit in her Harlingen High School classroom earlier this month.
Cuellar, who is also an adjunct education and training instructor at Texas State Technical College, was named the Texas PTA secondary teacher of the year. Members of the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District administration surprised her with the announcement while she was teaching a class via Zoom.
The veteran educator had forgotten that she was nominated for the award, which made the announcement even more of a surprise.
“It is such a great honor and something I was not expecting,” she said. “A fellow teacher nominated me. Months went by, and I totally forgot about it. I never thought I would receive such a great honor.”
Cuellar has been teaching education and training classes at TSTC for the past eight years. Many of her former students, both high school and college, congratulated her on social media.
“A lot of my current college students were so nice to congratulate me,” she said. “I was surprised by the support I received from everyone.”
Cuellar will be honored during the Texas PTA conference on July 31 in Grapevine. She will also be a conference speaker.
“My family is excited and thrilled. They want to attend to hear me talk,” she said. “To me, this is a truly humbling experience.”
Cuellar teaches child development and education courses at Harlingen High School, and 14 of her current high school students were certified as teacher’s aides, meaning they can go straight to work in the classroom.
“I want to teach my students, both in high school and college, everything I possibly can in order for them to be successful,” she said. “I am thrilled these students are certified and are able to go to work.”
Cuellar uses the same approach in the classroom whether teaching students at the high school or college level.
“You have to have teachers that are passionate about their job,” she said. “I tell all of my students, even those taking college classes, that they cannot be afraid to love your students. I also tell them to treat each student the same.”
Teaching became Cuellar’s second career. She previously worked for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service as a county agent. While working with young people for 20 years as an extension agent, she had a feeling about the education field.
“I thought to myself that I would be a really good teacher and received a position in San Benito. I have been with Harlingen for the past 14 years,” she said. “It was a great decision.”
Cuellar said being honored by an association that represents both parents and teachers was the real reward.
“Parents depend on us to do the right thing for their children,” she said. “That is what makes this honor that much more special.”
Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.