Highlighting Educators: Maria Jimenez


Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school districts to adjust the way they educate their students. The Inquirer reached out to local districts to highlight the different ways teachers are reaching out to their kids. Responses have been slightly edited for style purposes. These questionnaires were filled out before Gov. Abbott’s announcement that campuses would be closed for the remainder of the school year.

My name is Maria Jimenez and I am a science teacher at Nixon-Smiley High School. I teach physics, astronomy, and biology. 

What are some ways you’re staying connected with your students online?

I stay connected with students via Google Classroom/Google Meet/Zoom, school email, phone calls and text messages. I use these platforms to send not only announcements or class assignments, but to remind the students that this too shall pass, to check on them and make sure they have all the resources they need. Most times, I connect just to talk and listen to them.


What inspired you to stay connected? 

I enjoy maximizing the use of technology. Some things can be done easily on some platforms versus others. Sometimes it is at the suggestion of the student, based on what they are comfortable using or can download. As always, you may have to differentiate for your students. The situation is already stressful, so offering the students alternatives is essential to continuing their education. 


What kind of reaction have you gotten since connecting online with your students? Were you surprised? Did it exceed expectations?

I was extremely surprised to see students, who often seem less engaged in the traditional classroom setting, turning in assignments in such a timely manner. One student even reminded me that he doesn't hate learning, he just doesn't like learning to be forced at a certain hour of the day. I am not surprised, rather excited to hear the students expressing positive messages to each other, and openly saying they miss school and even me. I expected to have trouble getting them to turn in assignments and participate, but I have had 100% engagement. 

Why do you feel it was important for you to stay connected to the kids this way?

Students are extremely connected to various outlets that may provide them with differing and often wrong information about the current situation. It is important to give them reassurance in such times and to give them as much of a normal routine as possible. They need to see that their teachers and peers are doing well, are healthy, and are also anxious to get back to campus.


How is your workspace setup at home? Are you using your phone? Tablet? Different lighting? 

My current workspace is my empty guestroom. I have a small desk, two laptops, my phone, an additional webcam, a small whiteboard, notebooks, and even a podcast microphone. I didn't even think about lighting. 


What’s the one message you wish to convey to others during this time?

In every difficult situation, it is easy to get caught up in the negatives. I can't do this or I can't have that, or I can't find anything at the store. Yet, I choose to focus on the positive aspects, such as the fact that I am fortunate to still get a paycheck, none of my students are sick, I have plenty to eat, I get to spend extra time with my husband, and I am healthy. America has faced tough times before, and it will face them still. It is during these times that we come together and we get through it together. Stay positive, stay united!


Anything else you’d like to share? It could be a fun behind-the-scenes story or the difficulties of working from home. Maybe even a photo of a “coworker” (pets, spouses, kids, etc.) 

Funny thing, I really believed for the longest time that I wanted to work from home. This experience has taught me otherwise. I love my work environment, my colleagues, my students, and all our daily interactions. Like my students, I'm ready to go back to work!