Mayra Pena: Addressing Student Needs and Benefits of the Pathway

My name is Mayra Pena, and I’m the Director of Field and Clinical Experiences and an Instructional Assistant Professor for the College of Education. For my students, our learner needs are often based on personal circumstances. My responsibility is to place them in schools to get their teaching experiences, which requires coordinating transportation and addressing issues for students who may not have the ability to travel around our district campuses. I help them navigate these challenges and communicate their needs to ensure they have proper experiences and can access them.


Many of our students are non-traditional, meaning they are balancing school with full-time jobs, families, and children. Part of my role is to help them manage their time and organize themselves to meet both personal and academic responsibilities.


Once students enter the College of Education, they are provided with field experiences in our local school districts, primarily Laredo Independent School District and United Independent School District. Occasionally, I work with Zapata County ISD for students who live there. I discuss their preferences in advance, especially if they wish to do their clinical teaching closer to home to avoid long commutes.


Working with students in schools involves challenging them to see different perspectives. Often, they want to go to schools they are familiar with or where their family members are. I encourage them to gain diverse experiences, understanding that they need to be familiar with various demographics in our city—low socioeconomic, high socioeconomic, and different grade levels.


The biggest benefit of this approach is that our current climate doesn’t always portray the teaching profession in the best light. By starting early, students can see both the positive and negative aspects of teaching. It’s important for them to understand the rewards and challenges of being a teacher. Role models, both in their professors and in their cooperating teachers at schools, play a crucial role. Early exposure helps them decide if teaching is truly their passion.


Teaching is not an easy profession; it’s very rewarding but requires genuine commitment. Early experiences help students determine if their heart is in it, which is beneficial for them to realize sooner rather than later.

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