Written By: Alma Rock
Harlingen, TX – In a celebration of dedication to the arts and commitment to students, Matthew Rodriguez, first-year Theatre Arts Teacher at Gutierrez Middle School of Arts & Sciences (GMSAS), was recently announced as the recipient of the 2023-2024 Texas Cultural Trust First Year Teacher Grant.
The Texas Cultural Trust (TXCT) is a nonprofit organization with the mission to expand access and increase support for the arts, arts education, and the arts and culture industry while also raising public awareness about the meaningful impact of the arts. The annual First Year Teacher grant is awarded to select first-year arts teachers across Texas to support fine arts education programs in under-served communities and provide young Texas artists with the tools they need to grow.
Among the countless hopefuls, Mr. Rodriguez was chosen as one of just eight educators across the state to be honored with this esteemed award.
Mr. Rodriguez expressed his excitement about the grant, stating, “Support from the Texas Cultural Trust will serve as a catalyst for transformational change by centering culturally specific theatre as a means for long-term student success. It will change the way students engage with their peers, their campus, and their communities. With funding from TXCT, my students and I will be able to learn from national and international artists whose work is rooted in culture and intersects community and art. Together, we will be building the next generation of mindful educators and theatre artists.”
Jennifer Maldonado, Director of Professional Learning & Teacher Pipeline, said, “We are extremely excited that our teachers have the opportunity to write grants that impact our students. Matthew devoted his time and intention to do what is best for kids. It is even more impressive that he did this as a first-year teacher.”
Mr. Rodriguez is a Brownsville native. He holds an impressive background, having served as a founding father of the Iota-Zeta chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity and graduated from the University of North Texas (UNT) where he studied Theatre with a concentration in Performance. Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Science in Digital Communication Analytics from UNT.
Before joining GMSAS, Mr. Rodriguez contributed to the vibrant arts scene in Dallas. As a professional actor, director, and teaching artist, he lent his talents to several renowned Dallas/Fort Worth theaters, including Cara Mía Theatre, WaterTower Theater, Kitchen Dog Theater, Sundown Collaborative Theater, and the Tony Award-winning Dallas Theater Center.
The First Year Teacher Grant will play a pivotal role in launching Year 1 of Mr. Rodriguez’s initiative, “JUNTOS PODEMOS.” This three-year program is designed to infuse artistic opportunities into the lives of middle school theatre students and middle school communities.