AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Amarillo ISD’s first day back to school, the district also welcomed a new teacher who recently graduated from the 2+1 program.

Coral Enriquez, a third-grade teacher at Rogers Elementary School, said she had a great first day—something she never would have thought was possible at one point.

“My journey was quite difficult. You know, I was raised in the north side of town, the very roughest neighborhoods. You couldn’t have told me that when I was a kid. I mean, I lived my best life. You know, I lived right between Hamlet and North Heights,” Enriquez said.

AISD said Enriquez is a graduate of Palo Duro High School who was working for the school district’s child nutrition department when she started a family.

At that time, Enriquez wasn’t so sure about going into teaching.

“I did pursue nursing because of all of the negative talk around being a teacher, not enough pay, it’s not worth it, you’re overworked. But I did a whole year of nursing. And I was like, that’s just not what I want to do. This is what I want to do,” she said. “And I’m willing to do the hard work because it’s what I want to do, and I really care about the kids, the community.”

When asked about the importance of teaching young children, Enriquez said it is her calling in life, remembering back to playing teacher as a kid herself.

“For a teacher, you need a bachelor’s degree, there’s no way I could get a bachelor’s degree. That was my mindset. I cannot. And actually another teacher, my kid’s teacher, like she got on to me, she was like, ‘You can,'” Enriquez recalled. “She’s like, ‘I did it, you can do it.’ And so it’s really just believing in yourself and wanting like putting in the work, having a good work ethic, not giving up.”

So, Enriquez completed the TechTeach 2+1 teaching program through Amarillo ISD’s partnership with Texas Tech and Amarillo College.

After completing an Associate’s degree at AC, she said the 2+1 intensive program through TechTeach allows students to complete two years’ worth of Bachelor’s degree studies in just one year, including two semesters of student teaching.

“We start the very first day the teachers start. So we see the beginning of the school year, the middle, the end of the school year and I think that’s the key takeaway,” Enriquez said. “Like that’s what helped me like, if I didn’t do my second semester, I don’t think I would be as confident and as secure as I am today.”

Now, she’s back to her roots, helping students learn and grow not only academically, but socially and emotionally.

“I love this side of town. It’s my home and I know what these kids need, and I know who they are, and I can relate to them. And I think I can create that relationship a little stronger because it’s my element.”

Enriquez said she is also focused on giving students the tools they need to learn and use those lessons in real life, not just using strategies to pass tests.

She said that will be especially important to address deficits in learning as a result of the pandemic.

“This grade that I have, they lost all of their foundational skills. My son is a third grader and I saw his struggle. I was in kindergarten last semester. Missing kindergarten, you will learn everything in kindergarten. If you don’t have those foundational skills, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” Enriquez added. “If that means having to go back, having to tutor and go back to teaching them how to form letters, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to just try to push them through because we’re told. We have to teach them what they need.”