Texas Teacher of the Year maintains focus on students

It’s been a grueling year and a half for educators, but Texas ’top teacher refuses to let his students see him struggling.

DALLAS – A complicated third school year for COVID is underway throughout North Texas, and the current Texas teacher of the year says his friends and colleagues are “emotionally drained.”

“They shout all the strength and prayers from everyone,” Eric Hale said. “But we refuse to let COVID contain expectations for the students we serve.”

Hale teaches combined first and second grade classes at David G. Burnet School in Dallas ISD.

He was named Texas Teacher of the Year in October 2020 because of his strange ability to connect and inspire young students.

Although COVID has not dampened his spirit, he has disappointed his soul.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a little discouraging,” Hale admits.

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Starting another school semester with growing cases and a debate about masks is not easy.

“Luckily, kids aren’t old enough to be part of a political party,” he said, “so I keep the most important thing and that’s the success of my students.”

In the spring of 2020, Hale moved into a fully online classroom, posting lessons on YouTube and learning how to teach Zoom.

That fall he continued to teach virtually, but from his classroom.

Eventually, Dallas ISD moved into a face-to-face teaching environment, and that’s how Hale ended the 2020-2021 school year.

But with the rampant spread of COVID’s Delta variant, it looks like Texas has taken several steps back when the 2021-2022 school year begins.

“I definitely think it has made kids mature faster,” Hale said. “They know how to be safe and they are doing the best they can to keep up. And so many teachers across America are doing the same. ”

“The kids we serve are resilient, they’re champions.”

Hale’s own daughter is now in Burnet Kindergarten.

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The campus earned the prestigious designation of being Lighthouse School, something that only another Dallas ISD school has achieved, to instill character in the children.

“We’re extremely proud,” Hale said.

Hale said he is also proud of the pandemic response from Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

Hinojosa challenged an order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibited public school districts from demanding masks, and from the day we spoke with Hale, Dallas ISD demanded masks on all campuses.

“It’s definitely good to know that my superintendent is on the side of science,” Hale said.

When asked how she is doing despite so many challenges in teaching during a pandemic, Hale said it’s because she easily relates to the kids in her class.

More than 90% of Burnet’s students grow up in poverty.

“I think of the only educator left in the gap, and I know I am that educator for many of the children in my school community,” he said.

“I am the only person who has. If I fold, what do they have left? ”

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