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From Turner Student to Turner Teacher

Oak Grove Elementary makes "Grow Your Own" program hire.

Beginning in first grade when she was a student at Midland Trail Elementary, Stephanie Basurto knew she wanted to be a teacher. “It was here in the Turner district where I met so many wonderful teachers that became positive influences throughout my education, continuously supporting me as I worked toward accomplishing my dream of returning to Turner as a teacher,” said Basurto.

The timing was uncanny when her senior year, the district began a “Grow Your Own” partnership with Avila University that allowed current high school students to take coursework that would give them college credit towards a degree in education. For the class, students would spend part of the week at the high school learning teaching strategies and then they’d be placed in elementary classrooms around the district for hands-on learning. About her experience in the class, Basurto said, “I was able to gain first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a teacher and the required qualifications before even stepping foot on a college campus. This program prepared me for the future in more ways than one – I experienced what the workload could be like as an upcoming college student, but also learned necessary components of a great lesson plan and how to accommodate for children who need extra support, emotionally and academically.”

Ultimately, it was her experience in Turner specifically that reinforced in her a desire to go into education with the hopes of returning to the district one day. “Moving aside from the academic aspect of what the program offered me, I mainly pursued a career in education after observing the way the teachers in Turner connected with their students. It was clear that these teachers truly cared for their students and held so much love for them. I knew that I wanted to be in this profession, in this specific district, that offers so much positive impact for the children, to really make a difference.”

And making a difference is exactly what she has gone on to do. After graduating from Avila University, Basurto was hired as a teacher at Oak Grove Elementary this school year. She teaches fifth grade to a group of eager learners, and visiting her classroom, one can immediately see that she is beloved by her students.

Despite being in a career that she loves, she still experiences those first-year teacher challenges. She is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and feels disappointment when she makes a mistake. Fortunately, she is learning that these feelings are a natural part of being a new teacher, “I must understand that making mistakes is not something that should be feared, but rather accepted because that’s how we grow and become better,” she shared.

Basurto is grateful that the challenging moments are few. “There are so many joys within teaching,” she said. “I look forward to greeting my students at the door, knowing they’ll give me a hug and inform me of anything that is happening in their lives. It’s truly an honor to think that they view me as someone who is always available to listen, to trust, and provide them support – nothing can compare.”

Basurto stresses that while her heart is in teaching in general, she really loves being in USD 202 because of her former teachers turned colleagues. “It makes me proud to say I’m a teacher in Turner because we work in a community that will always place the child first.” Basurto referenced the fact that research indicates that a child cannot learn in an environment that they don’t feel safe and welcome in. “Day after day, I see fellow Turner teachers go beyond expectations to ensure their students are taken care of by creating wonderfully decorated and safe spaces, building individualized rapport with the students, and helping them in any way we can to support them in becoming better learners.”

The Grow Your Own program is still an opportunity for Turner High School students who are interested in education as a career. This semester, there are six students interning in our elementary schools. Ultimately, the goal of the program is for Turner students to pursue a degree in education and then return to the district as a teacher. USD 202 is proud to serve a diverse community, and being able to increase the diversity amongst our staff with teachers who understand and came from the same community as our students will greatly benefit those students.

Reflecting on her first quarter of teaching, Basurto said, “Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey – my family, the Turner district, and all the Turner and Avila teachers who believed in me and helped me accomplish the dream I’ve been working toward since I was a little girl. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for their endless support. I would also like to thank Oak Grove Elementary for welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful community filled with so much positivity – a special shoutout to my fifth-grade teammates for always being willing to answer my endless questions, granting me with plenty of happiness as we crack jokes, and for making me feel like a true friend.”