PHARR — Science teacher Rene Treviño was getting a little help from his daughter, Alexondra, in setting up materials ranging from Kool-Aid bottles to balloons for upcoming science demonstrations.

On Thursday, the San Juan native was teaching a class of third-graders how to make slime, incorporating scientific concepts into the demonstration during a summer camp.

Treviño, who usually teaches at Clover Elementary School, was at Liberty Middle School this summer for the gifted and talented summer camps this month. Thursday was the last day of school for the students, and he wanted to do something special, he said. Treviño is not only a father figure to his own children, but to those in the classroom. Treviño grew up as a first-generation American and was a migrant worker and remembers going to school and having to work, he said.

Treviño also mentors students as “travelling scientists” who go around teaching other students science.

“I call them my kids, because they kind of become like our own kids, because we see them the whole year,” he said.

Lifelong skills such as presenting and working in groups are some of the lessons he tries to instill in his students, he said.

The 48-year-old said he’s glad to see his children confident and succeed in the classroom setting. All four of his children attend schools in the PSJA school district, and he is a graduate of the district himself.

“Seeing the kid’s face when they actually capture or when they actually grasp a concept you’re trying to teach them,” Treviño said. “You can see something actually click in their mind that lets you know that they learned it.”

Rene Treviño and his students check out a science demonstration at Liberty Middle School on Thursday in Pharr. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

He said he enjoys taking a “hands-on” approach to teaching, as that becomes memorable for the students after the lesson is over. It also keeps them motivated in behaving so they can participate in experiments.

In another demonstration, Treviño lit up sugar in an aluminum tray for a crowd of third-graders who inched ever closer as the substance burned, which smells “like marshmallows,” he told them on June 12.

He was a teacher’s aide for 15 years, working as a paraprofessional and has been a teacher for 12 years. Several of his family members are also educators, which helped bring him into the field. His time as a teacher’s aide helped him see what worked in the classroom and what didn’t, he said.

Treviño said he initially wanted to teach special education, but was offered a position to teach science, which he grew to enjoy.

He currently is training to become a principal, and has been under several leaders during his time as an educator.

Rene Treviño and his daughter Alexondra, 11, prepare materials for a science demonstration during a summer camp at Liberty Middle School on Thursday in Pharr. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

The San Juan native said it’s important for kids to be involved so they feel more motivated to come to school. He started several clubs such as robotics, chess among others which he hopes to instill that motivation, Treviño said.

Spending about eight hours a day together for a whole year also makes strong bonds that become like family, he said.

Some of the students he teaches come from hard circumstances, from single parent homes and low-income families. However he helps them growth after time. For instance, a student who was reserved finally began to open up and may have started to see him as a “father figure,” he said. Other children had similar predicaments.

“Sometimes it would slip out of their mouth and they would call me dad by accident, but I didn’t mind,” he said. “We grow strong bonds together.”