Meet the President of a 2020-21 ATPE Local Unit of the Year
Date Posted: 8/31/2021
The ATPE Floyd Trimble Local Unit of the Year Award acknowledges local units’ efforts and accomplishments during the year. This year’s winners were honored during the virtual 2021 ATPE Summit.
Region 1’s Edinburg ATPE won the Local Unit of the Year Award for Local Units with 1,001+ Members, and 2020-21 President Antonio Mercado, a secondary economic and social studies teacher at Johnny Economedes High School, spoke to ATPE about the two driving forces that led him into public education and a treasured award given to him by his students.
What made you want to be an educator?
I had two major influences in my life that guided me to becoming an educator. The first was my late mother. She spent over 20 years working as a paraprofessional. She never finished college and only had a GED, but she was instrumental in guiding me into education. Through her, I learned that being an educator required more than a degree and a certificate. It required heart and a love for the profession. My second influence comes from all the educators who had an impact on me. These educators were not just knowledgeable and dedicated teachers; they were the ones who took the time and sponsored the many extracurricular activities I was involved in. They had the same heart for the students that my mother did. I continue to this day the lesson my mother and my former educators taught me. I have sponsored many extracurricular activities—I even coach golf—and give my students more than just classroom lessons. I give them my time outside the classroom like my former teachers gave me.
What is your most favorite part of your job?
Currently I teach economics to 12th graders. I am one of the last teachers the students will learn from before they graduate. My favorite part of this job is I can teach my students some real-life financial skills, such as retirement and other forms of savings, how to handle credit, insurances, etc. I don’t sugarcoat it for them. Times are tough, and they need to know life will throw many obstacles at them. By the way, I teach regular, everyday students. I am not an AP teacher or a dual enrollment teacher. Most of my students are labeled under one or more special populations categories, mostly economically disadvantaged and at risk. They are children of blue-collar workers and not afraid of hard work. My favorite lesson I share with them is the one on jobs. Many of my students may choose not to attend college but are willing to go to a vocational/technical school. I show them the top-paying jobs not requiring a college degree as part the lesson. I just love being that teacher who literally helps guide students into the next chapter of their lives.
Share your favorite moment as an educator.
There are many favorite moments as a teacher that I could share. One is when I see my former students working now as teachers. A second is when former students come up to me and just say “hi,” or I hear someone yell out, “Hey, Coach! What’s up!” Funny thing is many of these encounters happen when I’m visiting or vacationing across the state. My wife jokingly tells me I could never go into hiding because someone will recognize me, and it will be a former student. Yet, out of all these, my favorite moment as a teacher came at an end-of-the-year student awards assembly. I was working at one of my district’s middle schools, teaching seventh grade Texas history. When we came to the end of the awards assembly, a small group of my students went up to the principal and asked him if they could give out one last award. He was surprised and curious about their request but allowed it. My students, in front of the whole seventh grade, awarded me with their “Favorite Teacher of the Year Award.” Needless to say, I was shocked. Mind you, I have received the Teacher of the Year Award for my campus and other accolades in the past. This award though, from my students, came from the heart and is my most treasured award of them all and my favorite moment.
What is the most important thing Texas educators can do for their profession?
Texas educators are facing many challenges in the years ahead. This past year truly tested the resolve of Texas educators. We don’t know what lies ahead, but we need to be informed and prepared. We can achieve this by using the resources ATPE provides us. Our association has ATPE at the Capitol, ATPE-PAC, and many other useful resources. We are lifelong learners and must set the example for all. We need to continue to advocate for the needs of educators and public education in Texas, and ATPE is our guide. Only public school educators know what it means to be a public school educator. We know what’s best for us.