Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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One Teacher’s Journey to the Texas Capitol: How I Became an ATPE Lobbyist

I grew up in Spring Branch ISD in northwest Houston and attended Terrace Elementary, Spring Oaks Middle School, and Spring Woods High School. I have fond memories of my teachers, our diverse community, and the plentiful experiences that cultivated my love of learning. I finished my junior and senior years of high school at a residential program, the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science on the University of North Texas (UNT) campus.

I majored in chemistry at The University of Texas (UT) at Austin. Even though I love science, I struggled to find broader meaning in what I was learning and dropped out of my honors program. But when I took an elective that required me to teach a fifth-grade science lesson once a week at a local elementary school, I realized that I was good at explaining science. Finally, I felt purpose and, for the first time, excitement at the prospect of a future career.

When I told my parents that I wanted to be a teacher, we argued. My mom said I was “too smart” to be a teacher, and both parents warned about the “financial hardships” of a teacher’s salary. After graduating from UT, I considered a doctorate in chemistry, but it just wasn’t what I wanted. I finally declared to my parents that I was going to be a teacher and applied for a master’s program with initial certification at UNT.

Soon after starting my program, I began teaching at a charter school in the Dallas area. I was uncertified, unprepared, and about to endure unprecedented stress. By my second semester, I started seeing a psychiatrist. As I learned how to manage a classroom and my expectations, teaching got better. I always fell back on the joy of loving my students—the best part of every day is a student’s smile.

Still, those first three years of teaching left me with many questions. Why did teaching have to be so stressful? Why were some students neglected by the system? Why wasn’t there a counselor in my school? Who was making these policies that seemed to harm rather than help? Had they ever asked teachers what would work best for them? I felt acted on by the system rather than an active part of it, and thus, my journey to politics began.

I researched who was on the Texas House and Senate education committees and found that few members had been educators. I moved to Austin to be closer to the Capitol and taught my last year in Leander ISD. That next year, I began an education policy doctoral program at UT Austin and started working in the Texas legislature to tackle issues facing our education system. Coming full circle, my dissertation will focus on the behaviors of legislators who were educators.

My parents’ sentiment about teaching has changed, but it always reminds me that many do not understand the intrinsic motivations of teachers and the monumental importance of public education for the good of society. I look forward to continuing to serve students and educators as the newest member of ATPE’s lobby team.

Author: Andrea Chevalier, ATPE Lobbyist