May 20, 2021 - She dreamed of making a difference in the lives of students just as teachers and staff at Johnson Ranch Elementary made in hers more than a decade ago. Recently, she learned she will begin making that difference in her first teaching job at that very same campus this fall.
Valerie Grona, a 2017 Smithson Valley High School graduate and recent Texas A&M University graduate, will be teaching kindergarten at Johnson Ranch Elementary in the fall. She was offered the job after completing her student teaching assignment on the campus a few weeks ago.
“I came back to Comal ISD because I knew how amazing it is, and Johnson Ranch has a big place in my heart,” says Grona, who attended JRES in its inaugural year of operation, to retake the fifth grade. “I’m very grateful that they are taking a chance on me and making my dreams become reality.”
Grona, however, wasn’t always excited about school or education. She was diagnosed with several learning disabilities at a young age and credits the teachers and staff at JRES for turning her educational experience around.
“It was Johnson Ranch that changed everything for me,” she says. “In that one year, I gained confidence in myself, and it made a world of difference.”
In high school at Smithson Valley, Grona enrolled in the Ready, Set, Teach program, a work-based internship, which provides students the opportunity to learn about teaching by working directly with a teacher. She conducted her internship at JRES.
“Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to work with kids, but once I got into the Ready, Set, Teach program, I knew 100 percent that this is what I wanted to do. I think the main reason I wanted to become a teacher was because I struggled a lot in school, and I know how hard it can be. School isn’t something that kids should cry about every morning and every night, not wanting to go. It should be something that they really want to do, and that is something I want to change.”
Comal ISD has offered the Ready, Set, Teach program since 2007, and will graduate 15 students from the program this year. These students will receive a “Ready, Set, Teach” stole that distinguishes them and a letter stating that when they graduate with a teaching certificate, they have the opportunity to be interviewed for a job at the district.
Grona spoke at the SVHS Ready, Set, Teach ceremony recently and encourages any student who is interested in pursuing a career in education to enroll in the program.
“I hope I can make a difference in one student’s life every year,” Grona says. “I want to make sure that my students walk in the classroom with a smile on their faces and leave my classroom with a smile.”
This year’s Ready, Set, Teach graduates are being recognized at this month’s Board of Trustees meeting. They include the following students:
Canyon High School
- Emma Falcone
- Jillian Martin
- Jezabel Rebeles
- Robert Stillwell
Smithson Valley High School
- Emma Casas
- Karis Flores
- Megan Garcia
- Emma Johnson
- Jasmine Medina
- Nadia Rodriguez
- Lauren Senelick
- Caroline Smith
- Emily Watters
-Canyon High School Ready, Set, Teach 2021 graduates pictured with their teacher from left are Teacher Jennifer Baker, Emma Falcone, Jillian Martin, Jezabel Rebeles and Robert Stillwell.
-Smithson Valley High School Ready, Set, Teach 2021 graduates pictured with their teacher from left are Emma Johnson, Megan Garcia, Emily Watters, Caroline Smith, Lauren Senelick, Jasmine Medina, Nadia Rodriguez, Emma Casas, Karis Flores and Teacher Shauna Douglass.
-Former Johnson Ranch Elementary student, Valerie Grona, returned to campus this spring as a student teacher. She is pictured here with the kindergarten class she taught.