Master Teacher Monday is a series highlighting educators who have earned the designation of ‘master teacher’ through Texas’ Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA). TIA encourages school districts to locally develop multi-measure evaluation systems to reward and retain their most effective teachers. Those earning the ‘master teacher’ designation rank in the top 5% of educators in the entire state!
Christy Carillo has been inspiring her students in Ector County ISD for over a decade – and helping them produce incredible results on statewide assessments in spite of a high rate of economic disadvantage. Now, she’s earning nearly six figures doing what she loves.
Read Ms. Carillo’s Q&A below.
Tell us a little about your life and career journey.
I grew up in a really small town in west Texas, Van Horn, and graduated in the top 10% of my class. I went to Texas Tech University and pursued a degree in business management. After college, I married my high school sweetheart, and we had our son, Joaquin, shortly after. At this point is when I changed career paths from working in banking to pursuing my teaching certification. We moved from Lubbock, Texas to Odessa - as there was (and still is) high demand for teachers. Two years later - I had my daughter, Evelina. I have been teaching since 2012, and this year marks my 11th year as an educator. I have taught second grade, fourth-grade math, and for the past few years, I have taught fifth-grade math. This year, I accepted an additional role as a Multi-Classroom Leader. This job includes teaching students and coaching educators.
Why did you get into education?
After I had my son, Joaquin, I felt like changing career paths would be beneficial for myself and my family. I soon realized that teaching was my true calling, and I had wandered onto the path I was always intended to do. Although banking offered me a wealth of knowledge, I soon realized that it was not very unfulfilling.
How has being recognized and rewarded as a master teacher impacted your life?
It has offered a variety of changes. I am definitely seen differently by coworkers and administrators. It has opened up opportunities for me to coach and support fellow teachers - which also came with a financial stipend. This has allowed me to support my family better and improve my knowledge and skills by teaching not only students but teachers as well.
Some aspects of it have proved to be a learning curve - but as a recipient, I feel like it is part of my duty to understand and question any details about the process of the allotment that seem confusing for myself and for fellow teachers. For some, the pressure can be overwhelming, but for me, I use it as a drive to continue to do what's right for kids. Impacting not just my classroom but extending my reach into other rooms is definitely one of the highlights!
What is a classroom experience or specific student that has stuck with you?
I think every year there is a new child or group of kids that leave footprints on your heart. A particular group was the group of kiddos I looped up with from fourth to fifth grade.
My campus is made up of about 400 students, 85% of which are classified as economically disadvantaged. Several come to school with toxic home lives and lack strong home support. This group of students took the state assessment and they outperformed several magnet campuses in the district. That year 97% passed the fifth-grade STAAR exam.
Aside from their performance, I built a strong relationship with these kiddos. Some still come to visit me today and always feel obligated to tell me how they are doing in math. I invested energy, time, and love into them - and most of the kids because of the nature of their home lives - trusted me and worked harder than they ever had. The success definitely came from mutual respect.
What is your advice to someone interested in becoming a high-performing educator?
Do the work! All high-performing educators will not look or teach the same way, but the common factor is they lead with the intent to teach kids. They are the priority. Yes, the allotment and designation are amazing, but at the end of the day, their success is your "final grade.” If they are not successful - do not make excuses. There are thousands of things working against you and them - reflect and control what you can do. It can be a humbling experience at times, but do what’s best for your kids. I usually tell my fellow teachers - if you’re tired but that data is good - you’re doing it right!!!