Mariela Rodriguez, professor in the UTSA Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and Dr. Elsa Diego-Medrano from West Texas A&M University won the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) Mentorship Program Award: Professional Pair of the Year 2018-2019 at the TACHE Awards banquet in Austin on Feb. 19.

“Dr. Diego-Medrano and I maintained consistent contact and meaningful interaction throughout the year,” Rodriguez said. “Each month we talked about a variety of topics related to our teaching, research and service as university faculty members. Our interactions were documented by the mentoring program coordinator. This is a great program for TACHE members. I encourage other faculty members and students to participate.”

Their partnership and collaboration never aspired to receive the award. They purely enjoy engaging in academic discourse with one another. The award will remind them both why they became teachers in the first place: to help their students.

“This award came as a surprise for doing something that I enjoy doing—participating in a professional mentoring relationship,” Rodriguez said. “The award serves as a reminder to me to continue being available for students and colleagues who seek advice. That way my colleagues and I can continue to learn from each other’s successes as well as our challenges.” This is not the first time that Rodriguez has been honored by TACHE either. She was honored with the 2018 Distinguished University Faculty Award at last year’s TACHE State Conference.

Rodriguez believes that this award will be used to better help the community. “This award reinforced my motivation to help others,” Rodriguez said. “I will continue to build professional relationships and networks. I’ll use the mentoring skills that I’ve developed to continue to provide support for the graduate students that I work with, both at UTSA and those at other institutions.” Rodriguez, who worked as an elementary school teacher, a bilingual education teacher and a reading specialist, has been teaching for more than 25 years and truly deserves this reward. She wants to promote positive outlooks for her students.

“I like to serve as a role model for my students,” Rodriguez said. “It’s fulfilling when I see former students engaged in the leadership positions that they desired. I hope that my actions demonstrate my spirit of care and service. I take time to get to know my students because it’s through authentic relationship building that respect and trust are established. Then professional relationships flourish and are maintained years after students have graduated.” Rodriguez claims that her biggest role model is Dr. Diego-Medrano, her mentoring partner and close friend. “We have been friends for several years, but only recently participated in the formal mentoring program through TACHE.

Dr. Diego-Medrano recently concluded her service on the TACHE State Board, and I began my service as board secretary this month. It’s important to always give back,” Rodriguez said.

They both will use their time on the board to improve the lives of students and continue to be role models for them.

Rodriguez offered an ounce of wisdom for future students. “Dream big then make a plan to guide you towards that dream,” Rodriguez said. “I would encourage students to understand their strengths and identify the areas they need support with.

Then students can develop a list of persons and services that can provide support in the areas where they need to grow. These are important pieces because we need a ‘safety net’ while jumping from one journey to another.”

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