When opportunity calls, you have to accept the charges.
In Ezequiel Garcia’s case, it’s not just one opportunity, but several he’s had to turn down because he didn’t have the right degree — not that it has stopped him from becoming a celebrated educator in Pasadena ISD.
“I’m in the position where if I do want to move up, or go to a different district, or a different state, definitely have to have a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “So my plan is to complete my online Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences (BAAS) from Lamar University and then get a Master of Education in Administration right after.”
Quite a lofty goal for someone who gave little thought to teaching when he began his welding career 25 years ago at about the same age his students are today.
“I was in the welding industry for 13 years, and with my wife, Jennifer, being a French teacher, I always wanted to do the same thing but didn’t want to teach a core subject,” he said. “I was looking for something more interesting when a position opened up at a high school for a welding teacher, and in Career Tech Education (CTE), a lot of the teachers come straight from industry and don’t have a bachelor’s degree.”
From the moment he got his first taste of teaching, Garcia fell in love with it and taught welding for nine years. He was even named Teacher of the Year for Pasadena ISD secondary schools in 2012 — one of the few CTE teachers to receive such an honor – when he was five years into his teaching career.
“I was absolutely not looking to leave the classroom,” he said. “But I was approached for an administrative position, applied for it, and I’m currently the Business Partner Liaison for Career and Technical Education in Pasadena ISD.”
With his life’s work calling him to greater heights, going back to school was all Garcia had to do to reach them.
Proving His Mettle
Garcia is done turning down opportunities.
“Now they’re like, ‘Hey, are you interested in applying for this coordinator position?'” he said. “And I can’t even consider that because I don’t have the credentials for it.”
That may be true for now, but things are about to change. Garcia expects to graduate with his BAAS next summer, and his M.Ed. will only be 16 more months away.
“Honestly, it’s one of those things where at my age, I want to be on the fast track and knock it out,” he said. “I wish I had the time to go sit in a classroom and study things that I’m super passionate about, but at this point, let me just get a degree in my hand.”
Though the bachelor’s degree is more of a means to a master’s degree, Garcia is still happy to report that his classes are helping him see education in a new light.
“I’ve been in education for 12 years now,” he said. “You think you know everything, but then I’ve learned things in my sociology of education class that I had no idea about. It’s eye-opening, and I’m enjoying the content.”
The ease with which Garcia has entered and made it through the program has him regretting the delay in beginning the process, but he is glad to finally be doing it.
“I think what held me back for so long was thinking, ‘Are they going to accept all my credits? Or what’s this going to be like? Am I going to have to do some extra thing just to get enrolled in my first classes?'” he said. “I let that get in my way for a long time, but you know what? Everybody I’ve spoken with has been very helpful and put me on the right track for the classes that I need.”
Passing the Torch
It is not only Garcia’s ideas about education that are changing. He is also adding new technological skills required for the transition from classroom teaching to administration through courses in Lamar University’s online BAAS curriculum.
“When I took on this office job, I was in charge of creating spreadsheets or other documents that are sent out to our teachers,” he said. “That’s basically what we were learning in COMM 3361: Desktop Publishing.”
Seeing a direct correlation between classroom learnings and job duties, Garcia was able to turn work assignments into class projects.
“I was applying the assignments that Dr. Qingjiang (Q.J.) Yao was giving in the online BAAS program to what I was going to use here at Pasadena ISD, and that would turn into my project,” he said. “I’m not going to say it was easy, because it was very challenging, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I really did.”
As Garcia expands his role and looks forward to his future career potential, he can already look back at all he’s accomplished to light the way for his former students.
“One of the things that I’m super proud of is how we’ve built the CTE program up — that makes the job easier,” he said. “I am proud to say that two of my former students are now welding teachers and a third just opened up his own welding school.”
With 11,000 total CTE students in the district’s six high schools, Garcia is poised to transform the lives of literally thousands of students and their families.
He’s not one to brag, however. Even with all of his awards, accomplishments and respect from his colleagues, he is really just thrilled to be doing right by his family.
“I’m the youngest of four, and when I finish, I’ll be the first person with a college degree in my family,” he said.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences program.