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Maricela Ramirez is a true example of how a teacher can relate to her students and positively impact them. In fact, this unique skill placed her in the spotlight at the state level.

Ramirez was recently recognized with the Migrant Educator Service Award by the Association for Migrant Educators of Texas (AMET) at the 2016 Annual State Conference on South Padre Island. The honor is given to an educator who exemplifies leadership and dedicates their time and service to assist migrant children in their pursuit of achieving their dreams in spite of their struggles working in the fields.

Ramirez said she is honored to be acknowledged. “I’m humbled to say the least,” Ramirez said. “First of all, I’m part comedian so my first response was ‘wow somebody noticed I was working’ but when I thought about it further I was really grateful. I appreciate all the people who have worked with me or have noticed that I deserve this recognition.”

Ramirez teaches all levels of the different sciences to the migrant population at Donna High School. She loves her job and recalled how she wound up in this position. Upon joining the school district in 1991, Ramirez taught regular students at DHS, but she said a bad car accident forced her to stay home to recover and ultimately brought her to the migrant classroom setting. “Teaching overall is my passion,” Ramirez said. “The fact that I am teaching migrant students is a double bonus for me. It’s extremely gratifying.”

The veteran teacher said she understands their struggles because she too migrated up north when she was young even though it was only for one summer. “I had some very young, forward-thinking and wise parents who made the conscientious decision one summer to take my siblings and I to work in the strawberry fields in Michigan when we never migrated before,” Ramirez recalled. “Part of the reason was because we would always ask why our friends would get to go somewhere for the summer. My parents finally explained the real reason they left every summer. This is what these kids get to do they said.” They never migrated again.

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That summer was one of the most humbling experiences. “The lessons learned during that one summer made an everlasting impact,” Ramirez said. “We came home with a better understanding of what our migrant friends experienced every summer of their lives. It taught us to work hard, humble ourselves, be grateful for what we had and not squander the opportunity of an education.”

As a result, Ramirez and each of her siblings pursued a higher education. Her experience is what has shaped her into the teacher she is today. “My life has kind of come full circle in that I’m able to empathize with my students but I do not compromise the level of their education that they’re receiving,” Ramirez pointed out. “I will not allow them to get away with anything. They are some of the hardest-working kids off the school campus and this same work ethic that they have can be the same work ethic they can apply in the classroom.”

It’s evident her students appreciate her. “You can tell when a teacher really cares about you and when a teacher loves their job,” Rodolfo Garcia Jr. said. “Ms. Ramirez is like that. She’s always excited about teaching science but she will help you in whatever subject you need help in. She takes the time to learn about each of us and what our personal lives are like and she seems to always be full of energy and happiness.”

“Ms. Ramirez is one of the most caring teachers that I’ve ever had,” Rachel Cruz Jr. said. “If we have trouble with any of our work, she stops what she is doing and does her best to help us understand. If we look like we are having a bad day, she asks us if we are okay and makes us feel way better. She is great. I’m happy I have her as a teacher.”

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