Vanessa Loera Cruz was among the first students accepted into Criswell College’s education program, established in 2016. As a student teacher, Cruz is now serving Dallas ISD elementary students in the middle of a global pandemic.
Cruz heard about Criswell through her mother who graduated from the college in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Counseling.
“Everyone was asking me ‘What are you going to do?’ and ‘Are you going to college?’ I told them I wanted to be a teacher. I just didn’t know where I wanted to go,” Cruz said. “One morning, before going to school, my mom and I were talking, and she asked if I would consider Criswell.”
As a result of the conversation, Cruz decided to visit during Preview Day.
“I met Dr. Brown and talked to her about the program,” said Cruz. “Throughout the process, Dr. Brown was and has always been a big help. I am very thankful.”
After deciding to enroll as a student, Cruz was able to hear Dr. Brown’s testimony about how the Lord brought her to Criswell. The story has inspired Cruz as she continues her studies at the college.
“God has kept confirming my decision to come to Criswell, and it has been absolutely amazing. I love coming to school here. I love the classes, the students, and the teachers,” said Cruz.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented Cruz with many challenges as she interacts with fourth-graders at C.A. Tatum Jr. Elementary, where she teaches reading, writing, and math. But her time as a Criswell student has taught her how to successfully navigate every situation. Cruz described the impact of her classes at Criswell on her own teaching experience.
“As a student, I have learned how to teach and manage a classroom. The biggest impact has come from the way each class at Criswell inculcates Christ. My teachers take Jesus Christ, the perfect teacher, and help me emulate him as my role model as I go into my own classroom. I want to be that Christian influence for my students. When they look back, I want them to remember Ms. Cruz as a model of Christ in my classroom.”
“As I have taught in the middle of the pandemic, I have been able to display patience not only with myself but with everyone in the school, understanding that we are all going through similar circumstances. I have been able to extend patience, calmness, and a level of normalcy to my students in the middle of so much chaos. This is important since for many children school is a constant, a safe place for them.”
Parents have been worried, but Cruz has been part of a strong team of faculty and staff at Tatum Elementary working to keep their students and each other safe. Cruz and her students are becoming acclimated to the “new normal.”
“We have been in constant communication with parents, letting them know that their children will get the best education possible while being safe on campus. That is one of the things we have stressed because we obviously want them to come back to class and get into a normal routine,” Cruz said.
Cruz plans to graduate in May.
In March 2016, the Criswell College Education program was approved for temporary certification. The accreditation process was completed in December 2019, allowing the program to include early childhood through sixth grade and English as a Second Language. The program is fully accredited by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).