Education Spotlight: RGV native, TFA educator hopes background and experience make a difference


While a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Rio Grande Valley native Humberto Alanis realized for the first time that he wasn’t as academically prepared as many of his peers from more affluent communities.

“I saw this was a common occurrence among students from low-income communities and thought it unfair,” he said.

Alanis grew up in Pharr and graduated from PSJA High School in San Juan.

“As a hard worker in school, it never occurred to me that my education was different or less robust than other kids across the country,” Alanis said. “When I saw the disparity in college, I wanted to make a change and this is what led me to apply to Teach For America.”

Driven to create opportunities for low-income students, Alanis was accepted into the 2016 Rio Grande Valley Teach For America corps and was subsequently hired to teach world history at PSJA Memorial Early College High School. For Alanis, the choice to return home was an intentional one and he believes the background he shares with his students makes a difference.

“This commonality has helped tremendously,” he said. “Because I grew up here, I know of the wealth our community has, but I am also aware of some of the difficulties my students face. Being aware of both of these aspects has allowed me to have a great connection with those in my classroom.”

Determined to level the playing field for his students, Alanis works hard in the classroom and outside.

“One of the greatest joys has been to see firsthand my students learning concepts that will help them not just in school, but also in life,” he said. “The light bulb moments I witness when I teach them about their culture and background through our World History Class are truly special.”

Alanis also spends time outside the classroom coaching freshman football, boys basketball, and girls track.

“Coaching allows for me to impact young people though another avenue,” he said. “Sports give coaches a chance to help athletes navigate hard experiences that are similar to those found down the road in life. Spending time with my kids in this arena has allowed me to get to know more students and be better connected to the community.”

They say you can’t come home but for Humberto Alanis, that has not been the case.

“Being a corps member for Teach For America has been one of the biggest blessings of my life,” he said. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to come back home and impact my community in this way. TFA has been a great challenge but has also molded me into a person that works to overcome hardships. And it’s this lesson of perseverance that I want to impart each day to the kids I teach.”