Citizenship and a trip to TASB conference

Lornalyn DeLeon poses for a photo in front of a classroom display at George H.W. New Tech Odessa. DeLeon recently became a U.S. citizen and she took some of her students to a Texas Association of School Boards conference in Galveston to show their knowledge of neuroscience. (Ruth Campbell | Odessa American)

George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa Science Facilitator Lornalyn DeLeon has experienced a couple of firsts recently.

DeLeon was recently sworn in as a U.S. citizen and she took a group of her students to the Texas Association of School Boards Governance Camp in Galveston.

Originally from Cavite in the Philippines, DeLeon’s hometown is close to Manilla. She and her husband still have family in the Philippines. They moved to the U.S. in 2008 landing first in Shreveport, La. She taught middle school for about 10 years before moving to the Permian Basin.

DeLeon became a citizen Oct. 27, 2022, and was sworn in in El Paso along with 300 other new U.S. citizens.

“I was so excited. It was such a relief because of all the years because I came here 2008. I only got to become a citizen in 2022,” DeLeon said.

She started with a work visa and then became a permanent resident.

“It was a long process. … It was just, it was like I was telling Mr. Ramirez (the New Tech principal) it’s like goosebumps when they started showing all the countries represented. There were like 54 and I was like, oh wow, like this is it and then we got sworn in,” DeLeon said.

She added that her husband was sworn in at the same time. The couple has a daughter who is a junior at NTO.

DeLeon studied the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 100 questions, but they only asked her a fraction of that. “If you answered six out of 10 you’re good,” she said.

In the Philippines, people generally thought the U.S. was a great country and there were more job opportunities. DeLeon said if she was a teacher in the Philippines now, she would not be earning as much as she is in Odessa. Then there’s the milestone of becoming a U.S. citizen.

When she got her passport with United States of America on it, that was another thrill.

“It’s like the world is yours. … It’s like you will have more opportunities being an American citizen. You could travel (to) different countries,” she said.

Always interested in science, DeLeon initially wanted to become a doctor. But it’s expensive to go to medical school in the Philippines, and she comes from a long line of teachers. She is now in her 22nd year in the profession.

“My mom is a teacher. My grandma’s a teacher. Like we’re a family of teachers. I was like, let me let me give teaching a try. I was thinking I would only be here for five years and that would be it. But I loved it. … It’s like something new every day. You’re not idle. Everything is fast paced and I really like it. Every day is different,” DeLeon said.

She graduated from a public high school in the Philippines and graduated from the University of the City of Manilla with a degree in biology.

DeLeon didn’t think about moving until her peer teachers started applying to move to the U.S. A few years before she moved to America, there was an influx of teachers to Maryland. They gave her an idea of what was possible, so she found an agency in the Philippines. The head of personnel interviewed her and the door was open.

She loves New Tech.

“I think I am blessed to be here because here I feel supported and I think other teachers feel the same way,” DeLeon said.

Recently she took five neuroscience students to the TASB meeting in Galveston to share the experience of learning neuroscience in virtual reality. The focus this year was student voice, so a lot of districts sent students and teachers. The students presented March 3.

There are not very many districts or schools that offer neuroscience. This year, she has 30 students in the program.

“A lot of trustees from different school districts were excited to see” it, DeLeon said.

The program started with Bernadette Barragan in 2020 and DeLeon is continuing it. DeLeon had undergone training beforehand.

“Hopefully this program will spread because a lot of students will benefit from it,” she added. “The neuroscience program we have right now will open the doors for them, especially students that want to go into medical, health sciences.”

Principal Gerardo Ramirez said DeLeon is a “rock star” teacher who brought her science expertise to campus. She helps with the National Honor Society and helps enhance science instruction.

“When it comes to state assessments, her kids perform at very high levels. She has been a joy to get to meet the last several years that she’s been on our campus. What I really admire about her is that she’s always looking at things that will help her improve her instruction, so this opportunity at TASB was an example of that,” Ramirez said. “She’s always willing to try different things to benefit learners.”

Going to the TASB conference helped promote NTO, its project-based learning instruction, the importance of creating a strong campus culture and how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning.

“(She’s) definitely one of our best and brightest. She really is. She’s a joy to have,” Ramirez said.