Teaching to Troop
Reyes Elementary Teacher Serves Students and Country
Posted on 02/28/2022
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The only thing more motivating for Guillermo Noriega than the hustle and bustle of a classroom full of fifth-graders is being called to take part in a new mission to serve his country. The Congressman Silvestre and Carolina Reyes Elementary School (RES) teacher will be taking a leave of absence from the classroom to answer the call of duty and join a troop of fellow soldiers overseas.

It has been a fusion of bittersweet feelings for Noriega as he grapples with the notion of leaving his students behind to embark on his latest mission. He struggles with not being present to relish or continue to contribute to his students’ progress and success but knows his duty as a soldier is equally important as his obligation as a teacher.

“On a personal level I’m not worried in the sense that my kids won’t be taken care of because this is a great school and all my colleagues here are very supportive so I know they will be ok,” Noriega said. “On a professional level, this is the last year for my students and I know that it is a big deal for them to go from elementary to middle school and that’s what affects me the most, that I won’t be there to give them their certificates and move them on to sixth grade.”

Noriega joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2001 as a way to give back while contributing to his higher education. He realized his calling to teach while working as a youth parole officer and witnessing firsthand the impact a positive adult influence could have on young impressionable minds. It was then that he knew he wanted to become a teacher to help build a strong foundation for kids while serving as a positive role model.

Upon completion of his alternative certification, Noriega began his teaching career and enthusiastically took on the role of helping to mold the minds of elementary children in San Antonio, TX. He credits his military service and leadership role with providing him the skills to become an effective teacher and is now in his seventh year of teaching.

It has been a very meaningful experience for Noriega, who joined RES in 2020, to teach at a designated Purple Star campus. RES earned this designation by the Texas Education Agency that same year for the school’s major commitment to students and families connected to the nation’s military.

By teaching at RES, Noriega has been able to embrace both critical aspects of himself as a teacher and a soldier without having to sacrifice one for another. With the high number of active-duty military families as part of the RES community, he has found that parents and his students are resilient to change as well as sympathetic to the challenges and sacrifices of military life.

“This being a Purple Star school and highly visible to the military community helps with the transition of having a teacher who needs to deploy,” Noriega said. “If any kids are struggling with the change of their teacher leaving, they may have active-duty parents who can help them adjust.”

Joining the U.S. Army Reserve afforded Noriega the opportunity to find his calling as a teacher and is grateful for the opportunity to now be able to serve both of his passions.

RES teachers, faculty, administration, parents, and students bid Noriega a fond farewell with special celebratory parades.