The originator and district director of the Advancement Via Individual Determination program at Ector County Independent School District is retiring.
Dianne Mata has been in education for 29 years — 27 of them with ECISD.
She started out at Amarillo ISD as a bilingual elementary school teacher and did that for seven years both in Amarillo and Odessa.
Mata earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with certification in bilingual/ESL, from West Texas State University in Canyon, now West Texas A&M University, a master’s in counseling from Sul Ross State University in Alpine and a degree in educational leadership with a principal’s certification from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
ESL stands for English as a second language.
A native of Ralls, Mata was one of eight children. Her older brother by eight years, Rick Garcia, was her inspiration for becoming a teacher.
“He was the first to go to college in our family. He went off to UT Austin and came back to the tiny town of Ralls. He was hired to be the freshman English teacher at Ralls High School,” Mata said.
He was Mata’s teacher and even though he wasn’t an AVID teacher, Mata said her brother taught like one.
“I was not looking forward to school that year because I knew he was going to be my teacher and he was still living at home with us. He laid down the ground rules and said I needed to call him by his last name and respect him. At first I thought it was going to be really hard, but it turned out to be a really pretty good thing. He was a good teacher. The kids loved him because he was young, he was fun and he made learning pretty exciting, so when I saw that I thought, ‘I really want to be a teacher just like him,’” she said.
Mata said her brother is still a teacher in the Austin area today.
“He’s a great teacher. When I think about AVID, I think about being that first-generation college student and how students just need that support system and that encouragement and that motivation …,” she added.
After teaching at the elementary level, Mata said she was a high school counselor with ECISD for about 10 years. She then switched to administration where she was advanced academics director and tackled AVID and guidance and counseling together.
“They’re huge departments. I think administration, a few years ago, saw that and split the departments so I stayed with AVID,” Mata said.
She was with AVID when it started in 2007. AVID is a college preparation program for prospective first-generation college students, at-risk and middle-of-the-road students. Among other things, students in the program learn note taking, time management and organizational skills.
The program has more than 1,800 students in it at the secondary level — grades seven through 12. At the elementary level, it includes more than 6,000 students.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Carolyn Gonzalez said students throughout the district are impacted by AVID. As part of its turnaround plan, Bonham Middle School will start AVID Excel, which targets long-term English language learners.
Gonzalez added that Mata was a huge part of Odessa High School becoming an AVID national demonstration school.
She added that Mata made it her business to introduce herself to all the AVID students.
“It is a loss,” Gonzalez said of Mata’s retirement. “It will greatly impact our district. She’s really grown people that will be able to come in and help and (mentor), take it and run.”
She said interviews for the director’s job will start this week and recommendations will be passed on to Superintendent Tom Crowe.
Mata and her husband, Pano, a musician and former band director with ECISD, have two grown children. They plan to stay in Odessa.
“I do plan to hopefully still make an impact on other schools and just wherever I’m needed through part-time avid consulting. There’s just a lot to do and a lot to accomplish still. … I still want to make a difference in many other areas. That’s what I hope to continue to do,” she said.