When Misty Banville learned that she had a four-centimeter meningioma pushing against her brain stem, the Spring ISD graduate and mother of four was scared, not sure whether she was going to live or die. After a successful brain surgery to remove the tumor, Banville had to re-learn how to walk and perform other everyday activities she previously had taken for granted.
The experience, and its aftermath, completely upended her life, but also convinced Banville that it was finally time to go back to school, finish her degree, and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.
“I was scared to death,” Banville said of weathering the medical and personal difficulties that followed her diagnosis, “but I think it made me really tough, you know? Because I was kind of lollygagging on going back to school, and that really made me want it, really bad, and want to fight for it.”
Two years later, Banville is not only walking, but has re-enrolled in college at Sam Houston State University to finish her degree in education. And now – through a partnership between Sam Houston and Spring ISD – Banville has come, in her own words, “full circle,” back to Winship Elementary School. There, she and other educators-in-training are working alongside certified teachers during an eight-week rotation – one full day each week – to help prepare themselves for the classroom while also tutoring students in core subjects like math, science and reading.
Across the district, there are 24 Sam Houston State University juniors and seniors tutoring middle school students in English Language Arts/Reading (ELAR), with another 21 working to support instruction in elementary math classrooms. Another tutoring rotation is already planned for the spring semester.
“You know, most people don’t get to go back to their old elementary school, and I love it,” Banville said during a break from working with third-grade students in Winship teacher Katherine Bryant’s math and science classroom.
Bryant, who joined the Winship faculty in 2020, explained that the tutoring partnership will help Banville and the other teachers-in-training prepare for success during their formal student teaching assignments later in their senior year.
“We’re … helping prepare them and mold them and getting them ready,” Bryant said.
Spring ISD Chief of Innovation and Equity Dr. Lupita Hinojosa agreed, and said the district was proud to be partnering with Sam Houston on the tutoring program, offering education pathway students the opportunity to interact directly with students in the classroom, receive curriculum training, and be coached and mentored by highly qualified Spring ISD teachers.
“And they make all this come to life by actually tutoring our Spring ISD students,” Hinojosa said. “This is a win-win for both Sam Houston and Spring ISD. We believe that we are not only providing much-needed tutoring to our students to accelerate their learning and recover learning losses, but we are also developing and growing our future teachers!”
Amber Williams, another of the Sam Houston students currently at Winship as part of the program, said the experience so far has been an inspiring one for her.
“I just really enjoy it here, and it makes me so excited to finally be in the classroom,” said Williams. “Being here just really opens my eyes to the idea that this is going to be real someday, and I can’t wait for it to be my own classroom and my own students.”
Sam Houston senior Hayley Boylan, meanwhile, described the time at Winship as an opportunity to translate educational theory into practice, directly impacting students affected by pandemic learning losses while getting a firsthand look at how experienced teachers handle complex real-life situations in the classroom.
“We’ve seen how a classroom runs and how to teach a lesson,” Boylan said. “That’s something that you don’t always get from school. We talk about it, but we don’t always experience it.”
A common theme for all the Sam Houston students assigned at Winship was the warm welcome they had received at the campus from their individual mentor teachers, other faculty, and from Winship Principal Todd Armelin. According to Armelin, bringing future educators onto the campus and into classrooms to learn from experienced teachers just makes sense, and he said he was excited that his campus was selected to host several of the Sam Houston education majors on their way to their formal student teaching – for which he hopes some might consider coming back to Spring ISD.
“This is my seventh year here at Winship,” Armelin said, “and I can say this: Our Sam Houston student teachers who we’ve hired here, they’ve all been top-notch. Their education program is high quality, and those students who come from Sam Houston, they make for great teachers. I’ve not had one from Sam Houston State that has not been an awesome teacher.”
When Armelin jokingly asked whether she was already making plans to return to Winship for her student teaching, Banville laughed, as she had earlier when explaining that she currently expects to graduate from Sam Houston on the exact same day as her now-20-year-old daughter, who is also an education major.
She said finding herself back on her old elementary school campus at this point in her life – after everything she’s been through the past few years – is surreal, but also like coming home.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” she said. “I’m actually glad that I wear a mask, because I always have this huge smile on my face.”