It is evident Caceres Elementary School Principal Celia Martinez is loved by her students. When they see her walking in the halls, they go out of their way to approach her and hug her.
Martinez is admired not only by the children at Caceres but by her Donna ISD peers as well. A state-coveted award on her wall proves it. Martinez was recognized as the 2015-2016 Administrator of the Year by the Texas Educational Support Staff Association (TESA) for her outstanding leadership in the field of education.
She was initially nominated by members of the local chapter, the Rio Grande Valley Educational Support Staff Association (VESA). “I was surprised when I heard the local organization was nominating me,” Martinez said. “I said ‘what, you want to nominate me? Wow, what do I have to do?’ They said all I had to do was fill out the application so I did. I thought ‘what are the chances?’ You’re talking about competing with people from all over the state.”
Filling out the application turned out to be worth it. “Two members of the VESA group came by my office with a bag and a card for me that said ‘congratulations you have won,’ ” Martinez recalled. “I said ‘won what?’ They said ‘you won Administrator of the Year.’ ”
Martinez could not believe her ears. “I was overwhelmed because I come from a little town of Donna and here I am competing against school administrators from big cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin and small cities too. I was like ‘Oh my God what was so special in my application that meant so much to the organization at the state level.’ I was just very, very proud and overwhelmed.”
Martinez has been an educator at Donna ISD for 42 years working in various capacities. She has served as a teacher, Supervisor of the Bilingual Department, Supervisor of Federal Programs, Director of the General Education Development (GED) Program, Director of the Teen Prevention Education Program, curriculum specialist, assistant principal, associate principal, and principal. The last four years have been at Caceres.
Martinez said she was a child when the first thought of becoming an educator crossed her mind. “My parents had a little blackboard in our hallway at home,” Martinez said. “I would scribble on it and talk to myself and pretend that I was a teacher and say ‘someday, I’m going to be a teacher.’ ”
Martinez confessed though that when she got a little older, she would run away from school every now and then and wind up at the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg where her dad worked. “My dad would let me play with his chair that would swirl around so I would sit there and wait for him until it was lunchtime,” Martinez said. “Then we would go home to eat. That’s when my mother would see me with my daddy and make him turn right back and take me back to school.”
Martinez joked about the irony of her story. “There I was as a child running away from school and look at where I am today,” Martinez said. “Now as principal my job is to make sure our children don’t do what I did.”
At the end of the day Martinez is proud of the choice she made to become an educator. Her popularity is becoming more clear. She was voted by the community as Best School Principal in the 2016 Mid Valley Town Crier’s Readers’ Choice Awards.