Making memorable moments every day

Cesar Reyes’ fifth grade math and science classroom at Rufus C. Burleson Elementary School is full of life—literally. He is always looking for new ways to get his students excited about learning, and with fewer field trips available due to COVID-19, he has turned to Dallas ISD’s Living Materials Center to fill his room with butterflies, tadpoles, crickets and more. He had 11 chicken eggs incubating during math testing last school year, which hatched in the middle of a session and created a chorus of chirping to cheer everyone on. 

Forming connections with students has been at the heart of everything Reyes has done since he first started teaching at Dallas ISD 14 years ago. He was inspired to become an educator after watching his aunts and uncles transform lives in various classrooms in Panama, where he started teaching college-level classes before moving to the United States. When he arrived in Dallas, ​​Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary School had an open position for a fifth grade math and science teacher. 

“I remember that clearly,” Reyes said. “That was my first elementary school job, and it was really tough that first year, but the principal saw something in me. I was good at it.” 

He was so good, in fact, that he went on to help apply for a grant to pioneer personalized learning at Dallas ISD in 2015. Once Zaragoza won the grant, Reyes stepped up to pilot the program with students for two years and became an instructional coach to help new teachers incorporate personalized learning into their classrooms. 

Over the years, he has continued to be a mentor and role model for new teachers and teaching students alike, whether at Zaragoza or at Burleson when he decided to transition to an ACE campus two years ago.

“Mr. Reyes is an amazing teacher with a heart of gold,” said Lonnie Russell, the principal at Burleson. “His students perform well on all math and science assessments, and visiting his class is always a delightful, engaging experience. He is a friend to many and has mentored a few of our teachers. Burleson is blessed to have such an amazing educator, who is an even better person.” 

Reyes sponsored a weekly soccer club at Burleson this past year. He has three children of his own, and after seeing how much they enjoyed the sport and hearing interest from his students, he was determined to get the club off the ground. That first Friday, 30 students showed up, and they made do with a few soccer balls and cones for goals. Reyes went to Russell for guidance in securing more supplies, and they worked together with Dallas ISD’s Health and Physical Education Department to get everything they needed. 

Unsurprisingly, the students loved every minute of it. 

“The kids would come from all different grade levels, from second grade all the way to fifth grade,” Reyes said. “On Mondays we would have morning meetings, and all the conversations were about soccer. The girls were talking about soccer; the boys were talking about soccer. They had a blast, and it helped us build relationships with the kids. They got to see that school is not only about learning math or science, it’s also about having fun.”

The past few years have been especially challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Reyes has never stopped believing in his students’ potential. He is looking forward to creating memorable moments and transforming even more student lives this year. 

Just one week left

There is only one week left to enroll or make changes to your 2022-2023 benefits. Enrollment is required if you want to change your benefits. In addition, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA and Dependent Care FSA) require enrollment each plan year. You can visit the Dallas ISD Benefits Department website at for updates.

If you need more information to make decisions about enrolling in the Sick Leave Bank or on and HSA or FSA, download these informational flyers:

Sick Leave Bank

HSA and FSA 

Dallas ISD’s Benefits Portal ( is your information hub for all things benefits-related, including enrollment materials, plan descriptions and comparisons, beneficiary designations, and more.

  • Forgot your password? Click on the “Forgot password” link on the home page and reset it by answering the challenge questions you set up when you first accessed the portal. If you did not set up challenge questions, call the Benefits Call Center at (972) 925-4000 for assistance.
  • Are you accessing the Dallas ISD Benefits Portal for the first time? To register, enter your Employee ID and your temporary password, which is your birth date in MMDDYYYY format, followed by the last four digits of your Social Security number. Once registered, you will need to set a new password, following the rules outlined on the site.
  • Are you enrolling eligible family members for coverage? Provide the name, date of birth, and Social Security number for each of your covered dependents.
  • Need a step-by-step guide for using the Dallas ISD Benefits Portal? Refer to the Benefits Overview Guide 2022-2023.

Celebrating together

The Dallas ISD Convocation ’22 Districtwide Viewing Event is just days away! Below is information to help you create a festive environment for your school or department so everyone on the team has an enjoyable experience. We are looking forward to everyone participating to celebrate a new year together and hear from Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde.

Identify a viewing location/format

You are encouraged to identify a location that is appropriate for your campus or department (i.e., conference room, auditorium, cafeteria, etc.) to view the convocation, including individual computer stations. Keep in mind that the district encourages responsible distancing when possible.

Select a convocation lead

This person will be responsible for setting up the viewing area if you are watching as a group and the event station from which all event elements that have been delivered (i.e., lunches and SWAG bags) can be distributed.


Jason’s Deli lunches (sandwich, chips, and cookie) will be delivered to each campus and department between 9 and 11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 8. No further action is required of campuses or departments to coordinate food orders or delivery.

Convocation bags

Pre-filled swag bags are being delivered to campuses and departments. All swag will have been delivered by Friday, Aug. 5. If you have any questions about the bags, please contact Tunisia Wallace at

Viewing Link

The event is scheduled to start promptly at 11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 8. A link will be posted on to access the presentation. Participants will have an opportunity to interact through a special chat feature during the streaming of the convocation. When signing in as an individual or for a group, you will be asked to provide your name, email and your company, which should be the name of your school or department. On-demand viewing for Intersession and School Day Redesign school staff will also be available.

Information just for campuses

Each campus will have access to two balloon bouquets, which can be picked up by a designated campus representative at a district stadium between 7 and 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 8. Balloon pick-up sites are assigned by geographical quadrants. Balloons will be distributed at the main entrance of all pick-up sites.

  • Campuses located in the northeast quadrant should pick up their balloon bouquets at the Cobb Stadium pick-up site located at 1720 Robert B Cullum Blvd.
  • Campuses located in the northwest quadrant should pick up their balloon bouquets at the Loos Complex pick-up site located at 3815 Spring Valley Road.
  • Campuses located in the southeast quadrant should pick up their balloon bouquets at the Forester Stadium pick-up site located at 8233 Military Parkway.
  • Campuses located in the southwest quadrant should pick up their balloon bouquets at the Ellis Davis Fieldhouse pick-up site located at 9191 S. Polk St.

Click here to view a map and verify which quadrant your campus is located in.

Note: Balloon bouquets should be placed near the event station for added decoration.

For questions about Convocation, contact

Superintendent discusses district’s safety plan

In her first news conference, Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde reassured staff and the community that the district is doing everything it can to ensure the safety and security of students and staff as the new school year is set to begin.

“I want to reiterate that safety and security have always been the No. 1 goal, and that we know we need to be even more vigilant,” Elizalde said.

The superintendent shared many of the measures that have been put in place or enhanced to ensure the safety of students and staff, including requiring clear and mesh backpacks for secondary schools, the addition of weapons-detecting tools in schools, safety checks of doors, prioritizing maintenance orders for safety concerns and others.

One of the measures Elizalde highlighted was the more than $100 million from the voter-approved 2020 Bond Program being spent on adding security cameras, secure vestibules and other measures in school campuses.

 She also encouraged parents to reach out to principals with ideas for safety at their schools and to be involved.

 “If parents have ideas, I want to hear them,” she said. “It may be something we haven’t thought of, and if we can do it, we will.”

One of the ways in which parents can help enhance security in schools is to properly secure and store weapons in the home to avoid children getting shot, which is one of the leading causes of death for children. According to studies, many unintentional shootings happen in homes where children have easy access to guns that have not been properly stored. The Be SMART initiative, which the district will promote among parents, teaches how to properly and securely store guns to avoid unintentional tragedies.

 “We will continue to work on all measures that we can think of to be proactive, continue to have our safe schools that we have had in the past so that our students and our teachers can enjoy teaching and learning, growing together,” Elizalde said.

For additional information about the Dallas ISD Comprehensive Safety Plan, visit To watch the full news conference, visit

The deadline is almost here

The date to finalize your benefits choices for the 2022-2023 year is fast approaching—Aug. 18 is the last day to change or add benefits and to put money into your FSA or HSA. 

If you have questions about differences between plans, which additional benefits are offered, how the sick leave bank works or other topics, the Benefits Department is holding two more webinars to answer your questions. Just click on the links below to register.

The Benefits Department is also ready and available to assist employees with appointment options for individualized in-person and virtual assistance. For an individual in person or virtual appointment, please email and a team member will connect with you to schedule an appointment.

You can review your benefits and enroll by visiting the enrollment portal at Employee Portal. Additional information is on the Benefit website If you need assistance, contact the Benefits Call Center at 972-925-4000, or call or email a Benefits team member at 972-925-4300,

Dallas ISD welcomes new teachers 

About 1,500 new teachers gathered at the Winspear Opera House this week to celebrate the start of the 2022-2023 school year and their new journey with Dallas ISD. 

The atmosphere was festive and inspirational, as they watched performances by Dallas Poet Laureate Joaquín Zihuatanejo, DaVerse Lounge and the Wilmer Hutchins Blue Belles and Seagoville Blazers. Several campus leaders also took the stage to welcome the new teachers, including Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, Trustee Dan Micciche and teacher of the year finalists Anais Childress and Dutchess Gutierrez. 

Regardless of the campus or grade level, Dallas ISD’s new teachers are ready to transform student lives and make memorable moments this year. Kenneth Ho, a ninth grade biology teacher at L.G. Pinkston High School, is most excited about meeting his students. 

“My students are going to be in high school for the first time, so they’re going to be in a brand new environment the same way that I am going to be in a new environment, so I am looking forward to learning alongside them,” he said. “I also love biology, and I want to be a part of inspiring students early on to pursue science.” 

Shakira Aguinaga, a third grade bilingual teacher at Gabe P. Allen Charter School, agreed: “I am excited about the opportunity to grow, both in teaching and in growing with my students. The New Teacher Academy gave us resources to use in the classroom, and they will really help my kids.”

These incredible teachers chose to work at Dallas ISD to pursue their dreams and make a difference. Ieasha Lee, a middle school math teacher at Judge Louis A. Bedford, Jr. Law Academy, is a proud graduate of Dallas ISD who left the health care field to return to teaching. 

“I’d seen that a lot of teachers were leaving, and I saw that there was a need,” she said. “I’m one of those people who would like to meet students where they are, and I knew that I belonged in a classroom versus behind a desk.” 

Welcome home, new teachers! 

New opportunity for aspiring teachers  

Do you have family or friends who have a conferred degree and are ready to join the classroom? Dallas ISD is now offering new certification exemptions for aspiring teachers seeking to enroll in our certification program.  

Dallas ISD has expanded new certification exemptions for professionals who do not currently hold SBEC certification/teaching credentials when high-quality, certified teachers are not available in hard-to-fill and high-demand vacant positions. 

Flexibility on teacher certification has been expanded to include the following: 

  • EC-6 core subjects
  • Secondary ELAR, mathematics, science and social studies

These newly expanded areas for a District of Innovation (DOI) core content local certification exemption will meet or exceed the minimum academic requirements currently required for Texas-based Alternative Certification programs per TAC §227.10 and include the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree conferred
  • Overall GPA of 2.5 or higher in the content field
  • Core subjects EC-6: 24-semester credit hours in a combination of subjects directly related to the elementary curriculum
  • Secondary (7-12): 24 semester credit hours in the subject area

Additional exemptions also include the following for non-certified experienced professionals:

  • Ninth- to 12th-grade career and technical education (CTE)
  • Ninth- to 12th-grade dual credit
  • World languages
  • Visual and performing arts 

Educators can begin their process by applying through the 2022-2023 Teacher Application and are eligible for the new teacher incentives. If you have questions regarding DOI qualifications, teacher certification or need assistance, please contact the Certification Department at 972-925-4260 or

Hitting the high notes in the classroom

For Nancy Shotts, the piano teacher at W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy, Dallas ISD is home. Her passion for music started at 6 or 7 on a “little Hammond organ” and was fostered first at Bayles Elementary School and then at Harold Wendell Lang Sr. Middle School and Skyline High School. She returned to Dallas ISD as a teacher and for the past 18 years has been  developing her students’ own talents.  

While she loves nothing more than encouraging her students to be “superstars” with their music, she always emphasizes the life lessons at the heart of every ensemble, duet or concert. These lessons include how to focus, how to be dedicated and how to perform under pressure; and each one serves as a reminder to her students that their end goal is growth, not perfection. The “performance pyramid” is one of many visuals she uses to get this point across.  

“The bottom level is when you first are looking at a piece of music and you don’t know how to play any of it, but you study it and you figure out the patterns,” she said. “The next level, you are learning the notes and trying to make it all come together. Then the top level of the pyramid is where we want to be, and the pinnacle is that very highest point. You’re not going to be perfect, but if you are growing—that’s the standard.” 

To further emphasize music’s life lessons, Shotts encourages her classes to follow an acrostic for “piano,” where “p” stands for pride, “i” stands for integrity, “a” stands for artistry, “n” stands for knowledge (with a silent “k”) and “o” stands for ownership. 

“This is what we’re all about,” she tells her students. “Yes, we’re learning to play the piano, but these are our core beliefs. This is what I want you to demonstrate throughout the whole entire school, not just in piano but also in your family and your neighborhood.” 

One of Shotts’ biggest personal lessons in her 18 years of teaching has been authenticity. She has seen time and time again how intuitive her students are, so she works hard to be dependable, trustworthy and honest. As a result, her students recognize that she values them and are far more receptive to her teaching strategies and plans. 

Shotts is preparing for the 2022-2023 school year with a new theme to motivate her students: flourishing. After adjusting to so many changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shotts believes they are ready to thrive, and she will continue to apply her passion for teaching and music to help them achieve their goals, whether they hope to become an engineer or pursue piano at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

“These are students who wouldn’t be able to have private lessons. Their parents aren’t even able to look for that type of opportunity, much less pay for it and get them where they need to be, so the piano program makes music available to them,” Shotts said. “It’s just been a dream come true for me to be here at Greiner, so I appreciate that greatly.”

ESSER update: Expanding dyslexia services 

The COVID-19 pandemic created obstacles to learning for many students, including those with dyslexia who were already struggling in reading and writing. These skills are fundamental to student success and college readiness, which is why Veronica Allen, the director of Section 504 and Dyslexia Services, and her team have been working so hard to expand dyslexia intervention across Dallas ISD’s middle and high schools. 

The first goal of dyslexia intervention is to identify and remediate students as early as possible. However, regardless of the age a student is identified, all students identified with dyslexia require strong support systems in order to progress academically. Fortunately, an allocation from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund has enabled Dallas ISD to broaden services in middle schools and enter high schools for the first time during the 2021-2022 school year. 

Allen’s team used about $2.5 million in high schools and about $4.2 million in middle schools and hired 34 new secondary dyslexia interventionists to reach all secondary campuses. Some of the high school funding also went to supplies and materials, which the middle schools already had in place. As a result, there are now 189 full-time interventionists across the district who are assisting 5,886 students from elementary to high school. Their insights into the programs’ successes have been overwhelmingly positive. 

“Dyslexia interventionists are seeing these students blossom,” Allen said. “They are helping students become fluent readers and giving them more confidence. They are also teaching the students to be their own advocates and how to read their accommodation plans so they can say, ‘This is how and why I need support.’ And then they can advocate for themselves in every class.”

Providing dyslexia intervention at the middle and high school level can be difficult if  interventionists do not build trust and rapport with their students. Some students do not understand why they need to sound out letters in sessions when they are reading in class, while others may feel embarrassed to be receiving support at all. So explaining the “why” behind their sessions and getting students to buy into the dyslexia program is key. 

“It’s just a whole other ball game,” Allen said. “You have to really pour into them, so that way they trust you to go the extra mile for them. Once they start seeing and reaping the rewards, it’s unbelievable. That’s the exciting part.”

The ESSER funding for secondary dyslexia expansion will cover three years total, and then the programs will rely on the general operating budget. Allen’s primary goal continues to be early identification, but she also wants to ensure that secondary students receive exemplary dyslexia services and learn how to self-advocate so they can have a bright and successful future.

“We want these kids to succeed and be college ready,” Allen said. “If they cannot read, they are going to struggle across all core content, so once we build those skills and give them strategies to support the fundamentals of reading, then they are going to see progress across the board.”