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Teacher Yara Luna named SAISD Trinity Prize nominee

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San Antonio ISD has named Yara Luna as the District’s nominee for the 2013 Trinity (University) Prize for Excellence in Teaching, to be announced this spring. Yara is a 3rd-grade Gifted and Talented teacher at De Zavala Elementary School.

In recommending her, Principal Joseph Cerna wrote in his nomination letter: “It is without question that Ms. Luna has impacted hundreds of students’ lives in a positive manner and will continue to do so without fail.”  And he noted that “she is a mentor, role model and advocate, and “provides her current and former students with a great amount of support and motivation in their educational experiences.”

It’s no surprise that Luna is at home in an SAISD classroom.  Not only is she a District alum, but her mother, Lucia Garza, is a 42-year veteran SAISD educator and a primary source of inspiration.

Her appreciation for her mother's role as a caring teacher and mentor are attributes Luna now strives to exemplify as an educator.

In addition to the example set by her mother, Luna's desire to teach evolved from her experiences at the Child Protective Services legal department, where she worked after graduating from Vermont's Middlebury College in 2004. 

After obtaining alternative teaching certification, Luna began substituting at De Zavala in September 2006 and was hired full-time in January 2007. Besides 3rd grade, she also has taught at the 2nd- and 4th-grade levels.

"I realize that teaching is a calling and privilege as well an enormous responsibility," Yara wrote as part of her nomination. 

That commitment doesn’t end when the students leave her classroom.  Luna believes that "once they are my student they are always my student," and she continues to follow their progress.

This includes mentoring those she helped achieve admittance into the Young Women's Leadership Academy. She also feels a particular kinship for seniors at her alma mater, Brackenridge HS, whom she assists in preparing for college, even volunteering to chauffeur and chaperone students on out-of-state campus visits.

Her other commitments include: serving on the District Advisory Committee for curriculum;  co-coordinating  De Zavala's student newspaper; Positive Behavior Intervention Support efforts; University Interscholastic League competition; Junior Achievement partnership with the San Antonio Business Hall of Fame; PTA leadership; the University of Texas Explore UT field trip; founder/sponsor of the Taste Buds culinary club; campus recruiting at District job fairs; and endeavors promoting improved attendance.

As an SAISD student, Luna attended Woodlawn ES, and was a German-language multilingual magnet program student at Tafolla MS and Brackenridge HS, which helped prepare for her for spending her junior year in Germany as a foreign exchange student. She received a full scholarship for the trip through the efforts of her teacher, Ulrike Schulz.

Luna returned to Germany as a college student through the Middlebury Study Abroad Program.

Her higher education continued at UTSA, where she earned her master's degree in 2010.

Besides her mother and family members, Luna credits her success to Cerna, Schulz and other District educators including Margaret Mireles - who taught 5th-grade at Woodlawn prior to serving as an SAISD School Board president - and wishes to share her honor with them all.

"My success in life and in education has never been mine alone,” Yara said.

Yara Luna Trinitiy nominee

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