5th Ward Teachers Earn Masters in Leadership
Esmeralda Padron and Enedith Silerio will graduate with Master of Education degrees in educational leadership from the University of St. Thomas this May. Both women teach at Houston Independent School District’s Sherman Elementary, in the 5th Ward community where they grew up in immigrant families. Both are also first-generation college graduates and first in their families to earn a master’s degree.
Padron and Silerio graduated from Jeff Davis High School as Project GRAD scholars, and they attended the UST School of Education on full-tuition scholarships from the Tenneco Foundation for Jeff Davis alumni.
Padron and Silerio are two of 323 undergraduates and 747 graduate students graduating during the 62nd Commencement Ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12 at Reliant Arena, One Reliant Park.
Padron has taught elementary for 11 years and teaches second grade dual language in Spanish and English. Her mother and father were from Mexico and had little education.
“My father went to first grade; my mother didn’t even go to school,” Padron said. “When I was learning to read, I didn’t know the letters because my mother couldn’t teach me at home.”
Struggling with the language, Padron failed second grade, but she was inspired to become a teacher because of a teacher who helped her.
“Ms. Ortiz was a second grade teacher who pushed me,” Padron said. “She helped me learn to read, and she never gave up on me. When I went to high school that always stayed with me. I wanted to go back and teach students how to read. I wanted to be an example.”
Silerio teaches fifth grade and has also taught for 11 years at Sherman, the same school she attended as a child. Coming from a Mexican-American family in a low-income neighborhood, she said she was raised in a square-block area.
“You think that’s how everyone lives,” Silerio said. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized things are different. I wanted to bring that idea to my students – there’s a different life out there, and it can be good.”
Silerio pursued the educational leadership program at St. Thomas because she wants to do more for the students and her community, and focus on life-long learning instead of teaching for the test.
“I love teaching,” Silerio said. “I love being in the classroom, and I love the kids. But I could do so much more for my community as an educational leader than in the classroom.”
The M.Ed. Program
The Master of Education program is designed to develop master classroom teachers, instructional specialists, and school leaders who demonstrate the ability to translate and apply educational research in instructional settings.
Silerio said her master’s education at St. Thomas prepared her for being an administrator, including how to support teachers and how to track data. She was also able to network with other educators in class.
“The professors were all fully aware that we were professionals and were willing to work with us regarding our schedule,” Silerio said.
Silerio and Padron became friends while attending the University of Houston Downtown and taught together at Sherman. When they learned about the scholarship opportunity for a master’s at St. Thomas, they encouraged each other to attend.
Dr. Ginny Torres-Rimbau, professor of education and director of bilingual and dual language programs, said the Tenneco Foundation recently provided full-tuition scholarships to six graduates of Jeff Davis High School who were majors in education. She said the scholarships make it possible for inner-city graduates, who previously did not think a St. Thomas education was possible, to succeed here.
“Enedith and Esmeralda have great potential,” Rimbau said. “They’ve been working as teachers, and now with degrees in educational leadership, they’re on their way to be administrators. They have a great future.”
Silerio said she is excited about the accomplishment of completing her degree, while working full-time.
“You’re a teacher 24/7,” Silerio said. “You never stop thinking about work. It was very hard and at some points, one of us wanted to quit, but we pushed each other. I’m extremely happy that we’re finished and graduating in a few weeks.”
Padron pursued the educational leadership track because of the leadership of her elementary school principal growing up, and now she is considering more education to become a bilingual diagnostician.
“I want the students to become lifelong learners, and help them succeed in life,” Padron said. “I want to be that example to them: I made it, and you can make it too.”