In Mary Frances Sesler classroom, one of the most important things she can do as a teacher is support her students and let them know that she cares.
“It’s important to build a relationship with your students,” said Sesler, an eighth grade English Language Arts Teacher at Memorial Middle School. “It’s a bond and trust that helps the classroom.”
For 27 years, Sesler has helped students at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District. Assisting students for 15 years as a paraprofessional before starting her journey as a teacher in 2002, she saw herself pursuing a career in criminal justice before realizing the classroom was exactly where she needed to be.
“My degree is in criminal justice,” said Sesler. “I was going to be juvenile probation worker, but I just loved working with the kids. So from then on, I decided that I was going to get my alternative certification and teach.”
It’s a decision she’s never doubted as she is using her position on campus to help create new initiatives aimed at helping students and staff members create healthy habits to last a lifetime. For the past few years, she has helped developed wellness programs for students and teachers as the school’s health and wellness program, but this year she is piloting a completely new program directly aimed at educating students about nutrition in the classroom, she said.
“This year I’m piloting the Coordinated Approach to Child Health program with the Physical Education (PE) program to work physical activity and discuss nutrition in the classroom,” said Sesler. “Our class is doing it this year and next year I hope to share it with the other classes.”
With the CATCH program, students receive a weekly lesson related to health and nutrition. The goal of the program is to have students develop habits to promote a healthy lifestyle. She takes the concept of physical activity all the way to her regular lessons. She will frequently ask her students to take a moment to stretch and move to get their minds prepared for the next lesson, she said.
Along with the wellness programs, she has helped start the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) program this year. Although in its first year, she has seen a big interest from students with students staying as late as 7:30 p.m. to share their stories and views on faith, she said.
As her years at Memorial continue, the programs and initiatives she takes on are part of her ultimate goal to have students respect themselves and others while staying on the course to succeed.