Former Student Highlight: A connection spanning 30 years
A unique connection spanning almost 30 years. A former Texas A&M student and current professor first crossed paths in an elementary school classroom in 1992. Little did they know, years later, they would cross paths again in a classroom at Texas A&M.
Dr. Robin Rackley was in her second year of teaching at North Zulch ISD when Stephanie Deskin was in her first-grade class.
At the time, Rackley had no plans of becoming a professor.
However, several years later, she completed her Ph.D. at Texas A&M and joined the faculty in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. During Rackley’s first undergraduate course, she was surprised to see a familiar name on the roster – Deskin.
Deskin is now a teacher at Canyon Ranch Elementary in Irving, Texas where she was recently named Teacher of the Year. She credits much of her success to that connection with Rackley stemming from her first-grade experience.
Q: What do you remember about Mrs./Dr. Rackley in 1st grade?
Deskin: “I remember Mrs. Rackley being, by far, my favorite teacher in elementary school. She had this calmness and poise that was really impactful for a young learner in her class. In fact, I cannot remember any other teacher with such a confident and warm presence in the classroom as hers. I always felt safe, happy, loved and eager to learn in her classroom.”
Q: What do you remember about her from college?
Deskin: “I was working in college at a local grocery store when Mrs. Rackley surprisingly came through my checkout line. While I rang up her groceries, we caught up for a short time and she told me that she was now teaching at A&M. I shared how I was transitioning into becoming an education major and she encouraged me to register for her class. I was amazed to have her remember me and share our connection, as a former student and teacher. The fact that she took the opportunity to do that meant a lot coming from my favorite elementary school teacher. Although, it was an adjustment calling her Dr. Rackley, I learned a lot and valued my time in her class. Her class in particular taught me much about instructional strategies and creating an effective learning environment.”
Q: Was there anything Dr. Rackley did that sparked your desire to be a teacher?
Deskin: “Hands down, it was the zeal she created in me for learning. She was the first to ignite my love of learning and school at such a young age. I was always excited to share with my parents what I was learning in her class. She nurtured my young curiosity through the way she led her classroom.”
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a teacher and why?
Deskin: “I didn’t make the decision to become an educator until I was in college. Early on, I thought I was going to go into architecture or engineering. One thing that was for certain is that I always had this love of learning. I remember being the only girl in my sophomore high school architecture & engineering graphic design class. That was a class I was really interested in and excited about, but I really didn’t feel supported or encouraged in that class. It was frustrating, and I began doubting myself and my abilities.
That was a turning point for me because for the first time I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go. Later in high school, I had the opportunity to work with at-risk youth in a peer mentoring program, and also as a teaching aide for my church’s religious education program. Those experiences opened the door to my intrigue in education. I knew that I wanted to help other young people find their passions through education while also building their self-awareness as a learner and person. Ironically, now I get to teach engineering skills to young girls in my class while building their confidence as future problem solvers of the world.”
Q: How did your time at Texas A&M shape your teaching career?
Deskin: “Texas A&M set a strong foundation for me as an educator. I think the beautiful thing is that my time at A&M strengthened my mind and my heart to be the best teacher I can be. I carry the six core values of A&M with me as an Aggie Teacher. I strive for excellence by designing learning experiences that lead to deeper thinking. I foster a learning environment with integrity, that develops young leaders who are loyal and respectful to their peers and our school community. I am always looking for ways to serve our campus and our children and that has been the biggest impact A&M has had on me.”
Q: What are some lessons you’ve learned in your career that might help other preservice teachers just getting started?
Deskin: “The most valuable lessons I learned in my career thus far have involved passion and the willingness to do something besides what’s “default”. Take your passions in education and share them with others. Network with other educators who share the same enthusiasm for a particular subject matter as you. Have a willingness to go beyond what you know or what is standard to do something that is new and innovative. All of my opportunities as a teacher can be traced back to taking a chance and my desire to share what I love. Most importantly, help your learners find what they are passionate about; also accept and integrate their passions into your lesson designs while giving them the support to have a growth mindset.”
Q: Why do you feel you were chosen as Teacher of the Year?
Deskin: “I think my peers chose me to represent our campus as Teacher of the Year because of my belief that every learner in our building is deserving of being challenged and enriched while supporting their social and emotional learning. My desire is for our learners to explore, design and make mistakes while growing their minds and hearts in the process. I help our learners to reflect upon their learning and celebrate one another for what they’ve accomplished big or small.”
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your next years of teaching?
Deskin: “In the near future, I hope to continue working with learners in the STEM field, especially young girls and disadvantaged students, while creating opportunities for learners to give back to their communities through design inquiry. I also hope to build upon my knowledge of garden-based learning with our school garden while implementing more sustainability initiatives for our campus. And lastly, I would like to pursue my masters in curriculum and instruction.”
Q: Is there a message you’d like to share with Dr. Rackley?
Deskin:”Dr. Rackley – You embody so much of what I strive for as an educator and a person; from your ambitiousness and intelligence, to your compassion and service to your community and the grandest university. You impacted the lives of many young minds in your own classroom years ago, and more recently have helped develop countless Aggie Teachers to do the same. I hope to have the same fondness and impact years later for my learners, as you have had on me. Thanks and Gig ’Em!”
About the Writer
Ashley is the Media Relations Coordinator and responsible for news coverage in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture as well as the Department of Educational Psychology.Articles by Ashley
For media inquiries, contact Ashley Green.
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