ARLINGTON — One of these days, Breanna Daigle, McKenna Sanders, Brenda Dorado and Melissa Rodriguez will begin shaping the minds of school children. But, even before stepping foot into a classroom of their own, the four have already mastered two key aspects of the profession — and did so at the state level.

The four Waxahachie High School students and future educators recently made their first-ever trip to the State Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE) contest and came away with a first and second place finish.

Daigle and Sanders took top honors in the Bulletin Board division of the State TAFE contest, while Dorado and Rodriguez finished second in the Teacher Created Materials contest. In addition to this being the first trip to the state competition for all four girls, it also is the first year in TAFE for Sanders.

Each of the four also shadows and serve as aides in Waxahachie ISD classrooms. Dorado and Sanders assist teachers at Marvin Elementary, while Daigle and Rodriguez help out at Northside Elementary.

In winning their blue ribbon, which was the highest score possible, Daigle and Sanders were tasked with designing a bulletin board that they titled “Baby Panda Rescue.”

"I was surprised because I thought we did terrible," joked Daigle when asked about the oral presentation portion of the bulletin board.

“I think [the most difficult part] was deciding what we wanted to put on it for the grade levels,” Sanders explained. “Each problem had to be a different difficulty level because every person is different and no one is the exact same so some problems might be harder and some might be easier.”

Donna Shepherd, WHS Education in Training instructor, explained that during the contest the two students had to appeal to multiple grade and skill levels by showing how the children could utilize the bulletin board.

“I thought we had done very well on it,” Sanders said. “Our oral presentation could have gone a lot better, but our actual board I thought was amazing. I was very excited, considering it was my first year to go to state and to be in TAFE.”

As for the second-place finishers, Dorado and Rodriguez created a project that encouraged students to participate in vocabulary-type lessons with a colorful “egg.” The hands-on project also accounted for a limited budget that many educators find themselves on.

“We basically created materials for the teachers to use and stay on a budget or not have to spend a lot of money but still be able to teach the kids something,” Dorado explained. Dorado told that the colorful egg made out of construction paper was cut into thirds with vocabulary words or phrases written on each of the thirds. The children then had to match the colors and eggs together to form the pattern.

Rodriguez, who is in her second year in the Education in Training program at WHS, added that the project is “inexpensive and is easy for them to use. […] With the rhyming egg puzzle they were able to use just their hands, instead of cutting and writing and it gave the kids something to interact with. It was also colorful, which caught their attention.”

Just as any pleased educator would, Shepard beamed as she noted how proud she was, and always is, of all four girls and the others in TAFE or the Education in Training program.

“I’m always proud of them,” Shepard said. “They are great working with classrooms in the district for our Education in Training, so I know they are great teachers but to see them put together projects of their own makes me very proud. They are great and they are going to be good teachers.”

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

(469) 517-1470