Angelina Bencomo has been named Texas Teacher of the Year by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Angelina Bencomo has always loved education. As a child, she would imitate her teachers, complete with a grade book tabbed with paper clips and rubber bands, a chalkboard and several charts. Her sister, Belinda, filled the role of the student – that is, until her sister cried and asked why Bencomo always got to be the teacher.
“My mom told her, ‘Just go tell her you are the principal!' What could I say?” Bencomo recalls. “I still got to be the teacher!”
That passion for teaching led her to a bachelor's degree in home economics communications at New Mexico State University and a master's degree in education from Boston University. Now pursuing a doctorate degree in family and consumer sciences (FCS) at Texas Tech University, Bencomo has been named Texas Teacher of the Year by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences – Texas Affiliate.
“I'm very proud of Angelina. She really represents the best of our students and is a strong ambassador for our program here at Texas Tech,” said Karen Alexander, program coordinator of Family and Consumer Sciences Education in the College of Human Sciences. “She is passionate about teaching in general, but she also is very passionate about family and consumer sciences education.”
Bencomo shares her enthusiasm with high school and elementary students at Jefferson High School in El Paso where she leads the Child Development Lab in the FCS department. She returned to her hometown of El Paso after spending three years in Lubbock taking courses at Texas Tech and working as a research assistant, teacher assistant and student teacher supervisor.
“While she was here on campus, she supervised student teachers and taught a few of our undergraduate courses,” Alexander said. “Once she completed her coursework, she went to El Paso and took this position and really has been instrumental in resurrecting this program at the high school level.”
FCS encompasses everything a person needs to know about being a family member and a consumer in today's society, Alexander said. Essential skills like decision-making, interpersonal communication, nutrition and financial literacy are some of the topics discussed in courses at Texas Tech and “La Jeff,” as the high school is known. Bencomo's lab pairs high school sophomores, juniors and seniors with preschoolers, giving students a chance to gain practical experience in their preferred field – whether it be education, psychology, therapy or any discipline where child interaction is essential.
“She's impacting a new generation of teachers and she's also impacting a new generation of students. When we look nationally at the teacher shortages we have across the board, we need high school students to be considering the profession of teaching, and not a lot of them are doing that,” Alexander said. “Our teachers are our unsung heroes who are out in our schools working with kids on a daily basis and the fact that she's there mentoring and recruiting new teachers who are passionate about moving into the classroom is hugely important.”
The lab at Jefferson is part of the Texas School Ready! program, a comprehensive teacher training program that combines a research-based, state-adopted curriculum with professional development training and progress monitoring. Bencomo attends several trainings each month, completes online coursework and receives one-on-one coaching to improve teaching habits.
“Our preschoolers are benefiting from a learning environment conducive to positive growth and development,” Bencomo said. “Our high school students are learning best teaching practices, how to work with young children and much more. The students we have at La Jeff have good, old-fashioned values. They are very humble, kind and considerate.”
Bencomo also is an avid reader of children's and young adult literature. Once a month, she reads to children at her local Barnes and Noble bookstore. It's another interest Alexander said Bencomo shares with her students.
“She has thousands of children's books,” Alexander said. “Childhood literacy is an important area for her, as well as engaging her students in developmental literacy and increasing her high school students' love of reading.”
Sharing her appreciation of the written word is one of the many ways Bencomo shows her students she cares, something she said is crucial to creating a connection between teacher and student. She said she believes students learn and grow best when they know they are valued.
“I really enjoy teaching high school,” Bencomo said. “I enjoy the fact that every day is a new one, that my students are learning and that I play a role in their lives.”
Bencomo said she might eventually add teaching FCS at the community college level to her resume. Alexander said she looks forward to what the future holds for Bencomo.
“My hope is that she'll eventually find her way to the university and empower young teachers and instill the love of teaching in them the way that she has throughout her career,” Alexander said. “We need more people like her coming to Texas Tech and getting their graduate degree so they can continue to mentor new teachers.”
Regardless of what is in store for Bencomo, she said she plans to continue learning and helping others become educators.
“I intend to always strive for improvement. I will never be to the point that I feel I know it all. I embrace learning and growing,” Bencomo said. “I believe in helping others and remain steadfast in my career choice, honoring and respecting the relationships I share with others along the way.”