“I learn so much from him, and he makes me a better teacher,” says Vianca Sam of her son. Four-year-old Oliver has special needs. And what it teaches Sam about kindness and understanding, she passes on to her students at Midland ISD’s Long Elementary.
“I use what I’ve learned in raising him to teach my students about understanding differences in people,” she said. “Students need to know to be themselves.”
Something about her philosophy must be working. After just one semester as a full-time teacher, Sam is already earning respect from her colleagues. Sam was recently named “Rookie of the Year” at the MISD Employee Service Awards Banquet.
“It meant a lot to get that recognition from my peers so soon,” she said. “It’s really a dream come true. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was three.”
Last fall, Sam was still in school herself, finishing up her degree at UTPB. Thanks to the Opportunity Culture program, she was already serving as a student-teacher at Long Elementary. When an unexpected opportunity arose to be a full-time 2nd grade teacher this spring, she was ready.
“When the opportunity presented itself to have my own classroom, it was really perfect timing,” said Sam. “I was able to step right in and work with students at the same campus where I had been student teaching.”
While her journey as a teacher is just beginning, Sam is already looking toward the future.
“I want to teach as long as I can,” she said. “Eventually, I’d love to teach high school biology.”
As she begins her first summer, and looks forward to meeting new students in the fall, Sam has some advice for parents.
“Be involved in your child’s education,” she said. “Communication with the teacher goes a long way. If your student sees that you care about education, they will want to mirror that and make you proud.”