Core 4 Spotlight: ESL teacher uses her skills to help her students

A couple of years ago, Emily Reynosa, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Lee A. McShan Jr. Elementary School welcomed a new student into her classroom almost every week. 

With about 45 students in the classroom, ranging from first to fifth grade, Reynosa relied on the Core 4 tenet of Flexible to do her best to make it work. Striving for the yes, she made adjustments like making extra copies and rearranging the classroom to make her students—newcomers to the country—feel more comfortable.

This past school year, she had fewer students, ranging from third through fifth grade, and a teacher assistant to provide additional support to her classroom. 

Reynosa always knew she wanted to go into a field where she was helping others. She had considered nursing, but decided the blood and the needles weren’t for her—she chose teaching instead. She had been around educators all of her life because her mother had been a teacher and then a principal. 

“I wanted something where I could help people, and I ended up in the perfect spot, because newcomers are a vulnerable population, and they need a lot of support,” Reynosa said. 

This past school year, she had a student from Ukraine who, Reynosa said, did well on a daily basis but would sometimes get sad and would say she wanted to go home. 

Reynosa would then pause class, and she and the other students would do activities to make the student feel better, like drawing pictures and talking about how they felt. 

The Friendly tenet is one that comes naturally to Reynosa. She says being friendly is crucial in helping meet the needs of her students and their families because she often helps connect families to resources. 

Parents regularly call her for help. For example, a parent sent her a picture of a prescription from a doctor because the family didn’t understand it. There was a time when a family who was having a baby needed help with resources.  

“It is an emotional commitment because so many of the families are struggling so much and there is only so much you can do–but I’m happy to do it,” Reynosa said. 

She will sometimes use social media as a tool to ask for help. She asks friends if they would like to donate diapers, or she will create a wish list on Amazon to help get her students’ families what they need. 

She admits that it was not an easy road to get to where she is today. When she was doing her student teaching and was graduating in the fall of 2012, she knew it would be challenging to find a job because a lot of districts were not hiring in December. 

“So, I prayed and prayed and this job kind of just fell into my lap,” she said.

Since reading is her main focus in the classroom, she provides incentives for students to reach their goals. For example, the first person who learned 300 words from the Fry Sight Words list, would have a party in the classroom to celebrate the accomplishment.

One of her students reached the 300 word goal before spring break, and Reynosa bought her a cake with her name on it. The class then celebrated and had a big party to honor the student. 

“From not speaking English at the beginning of the school year, to having students read 300 words or more is a huge milestone,” Reynosa said. “The students learn and celebrate their accomplishments together. I do my best to provide a safe and welcoming environment, and I can give them the skills that they need to be successful.” 

Experienced teacher embraces first-day jitters for the new school year

As the sun rises on the first day of school, a mix of excitement and buzzing energy will fill the air. Although the nerves associated with the first day of school are typically associated with students, even the most seasoned educators can’t deny feeling a tinge of restlessness before they stand in front of their classroom door, ready to welcome new students. 

Chazlee Jackson is no stranger to the start of a new school year, but this year’s first day of school will look different for her. Jackson dedicated six years of her teaching career to Elisha M. Pease Elementary, where she honed her skills and made lasting connections with her students. For the 2023-2024 school year, she takes on a new role at Barbara Jordan Elementary, teaching first grade. 

“I’m thrilled to be part of the Barbara Jordan Elementary community,” said Jackson, a Dallas ISD alum, which adds an extra layer of sentimental attachment to the district. She attended Harry Stone Montessori and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

As she embraces her first day at a new school, Jackson acknowledges experiencing back to school jitters of her own. 

“Jitters happen for teachers, too! I literally have to count sheep, meditate, and do breathing exercises to calm my nerves,” she admitted. Yet, she embraces the new environment with an open mind and anticipates a rewarding year of growth and learning alongside her students.

Despite being in a new location, she continues to be consistent and effective in her preparation for a new school year. Jackson has developed a process that helps her set the stage for a successful academic term. 

“I will reflect on my previous school years and really become familiar with what worked and what didn’t,” she said. She writes down a list of pros and cons from the previous year, analyzing why certain approaches were successful and others weren’t. This reflective practice allows her to plan and strategize effectively for the new year.

Drawing from her experience of starting a new school year at a different campus, Jackson offers valuable advice to fellow teachers going through a similar transition. “Walk in with your head held high because you deserve to be in that space,” she encouraged. “Be open-minded and remember to protect your peace. A stressed teacher is never their best teacher.”

For students who may be nervous about the new school year, Jackson’s message is one of empowerment and positivity. “Remind yourself that you are growing and learning, and it’s okay to make mistakes. This school year will only be great if you believe it. So tell yourself, ‘I will have a great school year because I deserve it!’” 

As the bell rings on August 14 to kick off the new school year, Jackson will stand in front of her classroom ready to embark on a new chapter in her teaching journey, armed with experience, passion, and an unwavering commitment to shaping young minds at her new school.

One week left to enroll

Annual Enrollment for 2023-2024 is ending Thursday, August 17, 2023. Team members who want to make changes to their benefits, enroll in the Sick Leave Bank, contribute to a Health Savings Accounts (HSA) or Flexible Spending Accounts must do so before 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17. 

The Dallas ISD Benefits Portal ( is your information hub for benefits-related information, 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, temporary password, and birth date in MMDDYYYY format, followed by the last four digits of your Social Security number. Once registered, you must set a new password, following the rules outlined on the site.
  • Are you enrolling eligible family members for coverage? Provide your covered dependents’ name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
  • Need a step-by-step guide for using the Dallas ISD Benefits Portal? Refer to the Benefits Overview Guide 2022-2023.

If you need some help or have any questions about your benefits please book an appointment with the Benefits Department by clicking here.

Questions or need help? If you have questions or need assistance, call the Benefits Call Center at (972) 925-4000. English- and Spanish-speaking representatives can assist you on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Dallas ISD welcomes 1,400 new teachers 

Wall to wall cheers could be heard  throughout the Winspear Opera House in downtown Dallas Wednesday morning, as Dallas ISD welcomed approximately 1,400 new teachers to the district in its New Teacher Academy. The incoming team members represent teachers who have teaching experience in other districts and novices who are starting their careers in the district. 

The morning session of the New Teacher Academy included a welcome by Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde, Ed.D., who shared some of her experiences when she began her career as an educator.

“I always remember my first year teaching and the challenges and choices that I faced,” Elizalde said. “I could choose to say there was something wrong with my students when they were not doing well, or I could choose and pick up the mirror and say how can I get better.”

“One of the choices allows me to be comfortable,” she added. “The other one allows me to be empowered. It is a strength, not a weakness to say, ‘This is how I can improve.’” 

Elizalde added that every student deserves a champion, and that every one of the incoming teachers deserves a champion, as well. 

“My job is to ensure that we provide you the support that you need—that we champion you—so that we can champion our students,” she said.

Vanecia Brown, a teacher new to the district, was one of the attendees at the New Teacher Academy. An educator entering her seventh year of teaching, she is now the new physical education teacher at  Seagoville High School.

 “I’m really excited, and Dallas ISD has given plenty of opportunities for us to collaborate together and to be amongst other new teachers,” Brown said. “To see how the district is growing and trying to be innovative in how we are educating our students is encouraging. Go Dallas ISD!”

Bianca Camacho, an incoming first-grade teacher at Clinton P. Russell Elementary School, shares the sentiment as Brown. 

“I’m really excited to be given this opportunity to work and grow at Dallas ISD,” said Camacho, who is embarking on her sixth-year as an educator.

Presentations during the New teacher Academy took place in the morning, and the personal development training for new teachers continued during the afternoon. Among the presenters during the morning session were Dallas ISD Trustee Dan Micchiche and Dallas ISD’s Choice/Magnet Schools Teacher of the Year Jonatan Cruz. 

The New Teacher Academy also included uplifting performances by local artists Will Richey and Alejandro Perez and their band Melody Memory, Dallas Poet Laureate Joaquin Zihuatanejo, the Blue Belles Dance Team from Wilmer-Hutchins High School,  and the Royal Elite dance team from Seagoville High School.

The interactive performances with Richey and Perez had the teachers clapping and singing, and repeating empowering phrases such as “We are together one tribe.” Zihuatenjo presented his “A City is a Poem” poem with live music accompanied by Melody Memory, and a video that showcased various places and people in Dallas. The dance teams collaborated to share a high-energy performance that got the crowd energized. 

The keynote speaker of the event was author, motivational speaker, and educator Stephen Peters who talked about the impact that teachers had in helping him become a best-selling author. 

Throughout the challenges in life, he always remembered his middle school teacher who would tell him he was smart. He never forgot his teacher’s voice, and asked the attendees “What will your students hear when they hear your voice?” He also told the educators that students are dependent on what they as teachers bring every day. He described their work as “hard work, that is also heart work.”

Throughout the day, as attendees were in and out of sessions, the lobby of the Winspear included booths of different Dallas ISD departments and organizations who talked to the new team members about the different resources available to them, as they prepare to begin the new school year. 

A curriculum package is coming your way

As teachers return ready to start the new school year, one of the tasks they will be undertaking is preparing classrooms to welcome students. For some teachers, this will look a little different this year. 

This summer many teachers took advantage of the curriculum camps offered by Teaching and Learning to dig deeper and become familiar with the new curricular tools that will be utilized in the following contents: 

  • K-8 RLA and K-5 Dual (Amplify)
  • K-6 Math (Eureka) 
  • Algebra I, II, and Geometry (Carnegie)

Teachers of these subjects will be receiving new teacher and student curricular resources soon. As you unbox these resources, Teaching and Learning invites you to share your excitement for the new curriculum by posting unboxing videos and pictures of your new tools on your social media applications using the hashtag #DallasISDUnboxed

Lastly, be sure to access Clever for all approved digital tools and Curriculum Central for curriculum resources. Have a great start to the school year.

SPED makes leadership changes

Dallas ISD has reorganized the way it provides services to students who receive special education to better meet their needs and those of their families.

Richard Kastl will serve as the new assistant superintendent of Special Services. Most recently, he served as executive director of School Leadership over the Northeast Secondary Network and the Bryan Adams Vertical Team. Kastl has dedicated his career to the students and families of Dallas ISD for 18 years. He began his career at Sunset High School where he was recognized as a master science teacher, department chair, and then promoted to assistant principal. He was later named principal of Bryan Adams High School where he led efforts to turn the campus around and implemented the first comprehensive high school of choice in Dallas ISD. In 2018 he earned the designation of Master Principal. Kastl has pledged to build a districtwide culture of high expectations for all students, especially those with disabilities who receive special services. 

The department also welcomes two new executive directors. 

Kylynnedra Wilcots, who will be executive director of Special Education Child Find and Direct Services, is a 23-year Dallas ISD veteran. She began her career as a licensed specialist in school psychology and in 2015, became the district’s Behavior Program supervisor. Most recently she served as the director of Evaluation and Behavioral Health. Under her leadership, the department developed systems to ensure the district’s compliance with state and federal requirements. Wilcots is committed to developing leaders and ensuring students with disabilities receive quality services that help them thrive and meet their individual potential.

Sandra Fernandez, who will serve as the new executive director of Special Education Compliance and Instructional Support, has also been with Dallas ISD for many years. She began her 27-year career as a fourth-grade teacher at John F. Peeler Elementary School and was eventually promoted to assistant principal and principal. Under her leadership, James Bonham Elementary School became a Blue-Ribbon School in 2010. Fernandez opened Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School in 2012. Most recently she was an ACE principal at Nancy J. Cochran Elementary School where she and her team took the school from an F rating to a B rating. She was also a finalist for the 2023 Principal of Year. Fernandez is dedicated to ensuring campuses, students, and families receive excellent services. 

“These new leaders in Special Education bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences that will greatly benefit our students and our families,” said Elizabeth Casas, deputy chief Special Populations.

From first-generation college student to transformational educator

As a first-generation college student from a multiethnic family, Felecia Resendez understands the importance of prioritizing a college- and career-ready education. 

The specialist in Postsecondary Partnerships And Programs said she remembers being in high school and not knowing she was going to college until her senior year.

“It was never something that was a goal or that was ingrained in me, and I didn’t have any resources,” Resendez said. “It was a struggle because I didn’t know how to enroll. I didn’t know how to fill out my FAFSA. I didn’t know how to manage loans. I didn’t know anything.”

But she did go to college, where she discovered her passion for education. Then she earned her master’s degree in American history and curriculum and instruction. Having recently completed her 10th year as a teacher, she said she is more motivated than ever to help students realize how far they can go in life. 

“I come from the exact same background as most of my students,” Resendez said. “When I mentor other teachers, I tell them never to assume anything. The students that the early college model serves are at risk, and nine times out of 10, they are not being defiant. There is an underlying issue, so I approach them and ask, ‘What’s going on? What can I do? How can we get past this together?’”

That mindset has paid off time and time again. Resendez said she has seen countless student success stories in her decade in the classroom as they become better citizens and contribute not only to their own future success but also to society. 

“I always tell students my goal as an educator is not to create history teachers,” she said. “My wish is for every single one of these students to have an appreciation for history and how it shapes today’s news. So many of our younger generations and our minority generations are not aware of the impact they could have and what they can do to change the world around them.”

Resendez’s passion for education and commitment to student success are clear to those around her, from her peers to her students.

Teacher Gio Macías said, “Felecia is an amazing educator who always fights for what is fair! A lot of times doing the right thing is forgone in favor of the ‘quick fix.’ Felecia is a role model who advocates for every child and challenges leaders with clever solutions, all while maintaining steadfast dedication to her values.”

Ultimately, Resendez said she has loved working alongside such exemplary team members as a teacher and is looking forward to contributing to student success as a specialist.

“I really, truly believe in what we’re doing in Dallas ISD,” she said. “Because the kids are going to be able to take what we’re giving them here and be successful in college and beyond. Education is challenging, but it’s worth it. And I love doing it every day. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

We are back!

Dallas ISD is encouraging all families returning for the 2023-2024 school year to register for class and team members will be there to help during the Back to School Registration Event this Saturday. 

Visit Ellis Davis Field House from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, to receive in-person assistance with registration for students enrolling in prekindergarten through 12th grade. Students registering onsite for kindergarten-12th grade will receive school supplies, backpacks and other services at no cost while supplies last. Ellis Davis Field House is located at 9191 S. Polk St.

The following documents will be needed to register students during the event:

  • Birth certificate (new students)
  • Parent/guardian photo ID
  • Proof of address
  • Immunization record
  • Social Security card (optional)

Parents registering students for prekindergarten will need to bring additional documents to determine eligibility for pre-K (as applicable):

  • Proof of income
  • Medicaid/SNAP/TANF benefits letter
  • Foster care paperwork
  • Military paperwork
  • Star of Texas paperwork

Only two weeks left to choose your benefits

Did you know there is a new dental option for the coming year or that there is a change in the pharmacy providers under TRS? Information on these and other topics is explained by Benefits team members during the two Annual Benefits Enrollment webinars still available. Annual Benefits Enrollment for 2023-2024 runs through Aug. 17.   

To register for the two remaining webinars before the enrollment deadline, click on the link for the date that is most convenient to you. Both webinars start at 5 p.m., and participants will have the opportunity to review information and ask questions.

Tuesday, Aug. 8

Tuesday, Aug. 15

 For more information about this year’s benefits offerings, you can also look through the

Benefits Overview Guide, which has details on the benefits you’ll be able to choose from. You can find the guide here. You can also visit the Benefits page at

If you need additional help or have any questions about your benefits, please book an appointment with a Benefits Department team member by clicking here. You can also call the Benefits Call Center at (972) 925-4000 where English- and Spanish-speaking representatives can assist you on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

It’s that time again

In compliance with state and federal laws, Dallas ISD requires that all employees complete the policy acknowledgement and compliance training at the beginning of every school year. This year, the training must be completed by Friday, Sept. 29.

Step 1: Complete Policy Acknowledgement

Using their email address and password, employees will log into the policy acknowledgement website at to acknowledge the Employee Handbook, Annual Employee Notification of District Policies, Family Relationship Disclosure, and Confidentiality Requirements.

Step 2: Complete Compliance Training (Cornerstone)

Employees will use their email address and password to log into Cornerstone at The compliance training assignment will be in the “My Assigned Training” section located on the “Welcome” page or on the “Learning” tab under “View Your Transcript.”

Training includes the following: Child Abuse Awareness, Educators’ Code of Ethics, Copyright and Licensing, Dress Code Standards, Employment Concerns and Employee Rights, FERPA, Sexual Harassment, and Workplace Bullying. Training for campus staff will also include Anaphylaxis and Auto-Injectors, Bloodborne Pathogens, What is Bullying, and Section 504.

For assistance with technical issues in Cornerstone, go to the Live User Support tab in Cornerstone to access the live support team.

Substitutes only

Both the policy acknowledgement and compliance training are available in the Compliance Learning Portal. Substitute employees will use their employee ID, last name (as listed in Oracle), and date of birth to log into the portal.

Links to the policy acknowledgement, Cornerstone, and the substitute portal can also be accessed on the Policy and Compliance website at

For additional questions or assistance, please contact Human Capital Management’s Policy and Compliance team at