Krystal Contreras, a fourth-grade writing teacher at Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary School in San Benito, Texas, holds her students to the highest of standards. From the 2016-17 school year to the 2017-18 school year, there was a five percent increase in the school’s fourth-graders who passed end-of-year writing assessments, from 82% to 87%. Both years, the percentage was the highest in the district, and Contreras played a key role in the increase by spending the summer researching new writing strategies and attending professional development workshops. She came back in the 2017-18 year with writing boot camps in the cafeteria and brought a well-known writing expert into class to model lessons.
Contreras is always looking for new strategies to move her students forward and puts a lot of time into developing innovative and engaging lessons. Her classroom is organized and inviting, with flexible seating options. Students often work in small groups, crowded around laptops as they work on a lesson about using reference materials or vocabulary. Contreras focuses on all the different components of good writing. To change up the environment, she sometimes transforms her classroom into a picnic; other times Contreras switches off the overhead lights, turning on black lights to make teeth and shoelaces glow. Contreras goes to great lengths to help every student. She tutors after school and on Saturdays, making extra learning sessions fun by incorporating games like Jenga into her instruction. Contreras’s goal: to help students become independent problem-solvers in the real world.
Colleagues know Contreras is always willing to help with instructional strategies. When she came to Cash, she brought her own printer, laminator and copier to perfect her teaching materials—all of which she shared freely with her fellow educators. Contreras has written curriculum and delivered professional development during the district’s “Teachers Teaching Teachers” conference. She has worked on vertical alignment teams and professional learning communities, the attendance committee and the Superintendent’s Advisory Council. A graduate of Cash and San Benito High School, Contreras is a fixture at after-school activities and events.
Contreras earned a bachelor’s in English and communications in 2004 from University of Texas Pan American.
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