Each month, we highlight an educator who has 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!
Rolando Alvarez has been able to channel his creativity into the classroom, using his professional background in cinematography to find innovative ways to teach his students. Now he’s earning nearly six figures while doing what he loves and making an impact on the students he cares so much about.
Read Mr. Alvarez’s Q&A below.
Tell us a little about your life and career journey.
I come from Jacksonville, Texas, a small town in East Texas that is quiet and a great place to live. I graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a major in mass communications and a minor in cinematography. Those who know me know I am a huge gamer and love everything deemed nerdy. Card games, video games, board games, manga, anime, you name it! I can be innovative in the classroom and use my interests and talents to create a more engaging and fun environment. Having such a creative background has really helped me elevate the educational experience for my students.
Why did you get into education?
I got into education through an alternative certification program. Never in a million years would I have expected to become a teacher. My field of study is mass communications and cinematography. Long story short: after spending a year in that industry, I realized that it wasn’t the best situation for me, and the opportunity to become an educator came up, and I was intrigued. Call it fate, but I haven't looked back since.
How has being recognized and rewarded as a master teacher impacted your life?
I was honored to be recognized and rewarded as a master teacher. While it hasn’t impacted my day-to-day work in the classroom, I am aware that it now holds me to a new standard. By nature, I am an introvert and mostly keep to myself. Since being recognized, I have tried my best to speak up and share my ideas in the best way possible. Though I am still working on coming out of my shell, I know that it is something I need to do to share my philosophies of education with my colleagues. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and ideas with other teachers and collaborating on the best ways to educate our students.
What is a classroom experience or specific student that has stuck with you?
One memorable class is the self-proclaimed students from 214. This was a third-grade class I taught, but our year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, due to my experience in audio and video editing, the transition from a live classroom to a virtual classroom was seamless. Though seamless, it took hard work. Every day I would script out lessons, film, and edit them to be uploaded on YouTube for them to view daily. This took about eight hours a day, but I stayed consistent. The best part about this was that the students and I were able to form a close bond during a time of global peril. Teachers and students all over the world also benefited from these videos. The channel gained many subscribers, and students from all over the world left positive comments and feedback. Collectively four of my videos have about a quarter-million views. After investing time and effort in my students, I decided to follow them into fourth grade and then again into fifth. The bonds and friendships created within this class were something special. Those three years were the pinnacle of my career.
What is your advice to someone interested in becoming a high-performing educator?
My advice to someone interested in becoming a teacher, but more so a high-performing teacher, is this: get to know your students on a more personal level and build relationships that go beyond academics. I firmly believe students respond better to teachers who take the time to get to know and genuinely care about them. Trust me, students notice this even if it may not seem like it. It’s like they have a sixth sense for stuff like this. If we take the time as educators to get to know our students and try to understand them before trying to get them to understand us: the willingness to learn, academic growth, and high attendance rates come as a byproduct.