The new year is upon us, and before you get bogged down with reviews and tests, take a pause to celebrate something positive. Let’s start the spring semester off right by wishing Valerie Krizan a hearty congratulations for being ATPE’s January Volunteer of the Month!
For our Volunteer of the Month recognition program, we choose one member each month who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their commitment to ATPE and public education. We look for volunteers who exhibit outstanding leadership and tireless efforts, and we’re relying on YOU for nominees.
Meet January’s Volunteer of the Month, Valerie Krizan of Montgomery ATPE!
What is your job title? Where do you work? How long have you been in this role?
I am a criminal justice (CJ) teacher at Montgomery High School. I started the Criminal Justice Program nine years ago, and I am so proud of it because it has grown so much. I am the dual credit CJ teacher, the mock trial team sponsor, a volunteer on a number of committees, and the ATPE campus representative. I have taught elementary, high school, and college. Before coming to Montgomery, I worked for Willis ISD. I have been so blessed to have worked for two wonderful districts.
How long have you been an ATPE member? Why did you choose ATPE?
I joined ATPE as soon as I heard about it in 2006. I have a unique perspective on why people should join ATPE. Before becoming a teacher, I spent 25 years working for various law firms in my first career. As soon as I heard about ATPE and the extensive legal team* that came with the membership, it was a quick decision to join. Many people do not realize how expensive legal fees are if you have to pay it out of your own pocket.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Every day I wake up and look forward to going to work. My students are amazing, and I have always worked with supportive administrators and colleagues. I love it when the kids are engaged and asking questions. It is so exciting when the students graduate and actually go into criminal justice professions. Many students still keep in touch with me, and it is so rewarding.
What advice would you give to a new educator coming into your position?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. The most important thing is to get to know each student individually. Sit down with them and have a conversation—whether they are in kindergarten or high school. Find out what they like and don’t like. Ask about their interests and hobbies. Go to their games, plays, and performances. High-five them when they do a good job, and hug them when they are down. The rest will fall into place. Lesson plans and TEKS will go smoothly when you establish relationships.
What is the most important thing you wish someone had told you when you started out in your career?
Find a mentor (or mentors) in your school and hold on for dear life. Many schools will assign you a mentor, but the mentor you hang on to may not even be the one who was assigned. When you are new, so many people offer their help. Don’t turn them down because you have an assigned mentor. Take them up on it, and listen to their advice and guidance. Follow the teacher motto: You can do anything for a year. The next year is way easier.
Share your favorite moment as an educator.
One day I was feeling really down and didn’t feel like I was making a difference or connecting with the kids anymore. I was seriously thinking about quitting. That afternoon, a really quiet, shy boy brought me a note. This was odd because he seldom spoke to me. His note told me how much of an impact I had on his life. He said that he had planned to commit suicide a few weeks prior, but thought about how much I cared about him and couldn’t go through with it. He said he told his parents, and they were grateful for me also. Needless to say, I stayed.
*Access to ATPE’s legal resources is subject to eligibility, terms, conditions, and limitations. The staff attorney services and insured benefits are provided through separate programs. Visit atpe.org/protection for details.
Want to learn more about this program or have questions about how you can be an ATPE volunteer? Email our volunteer program coordinator, Anna Belle Burleson, at email@example.com.
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