With nearly three decades of teaching under her belt, Zavala Elementary School teacher Latisha “Tish” Regalado has taught generations of students, some of whom were sitting in her fifth-grade class on a recent Wednesday.

“Many of them, I’ve had their parents. I know the community. I know the families. I think they know I’m not going to call them just to call them. They know I’m not going to be up against the kids. They know I’m not calling to pick on the kids,” Regalado said.

She’s even called students by their parent’s name because they look just like them.

Starting at Zavala in the fall of 1991, Regalado spent a year in Marfa and a year in Richardson before coming home to Odessa. She was a long-term substitute teacher at both stops.

A graduate of Sul Ross State University, Regalado earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with reading and English as a second language specializations. That way, she said, she can serve ESL students and they don’t have to be pulled out of class.

Initially, Regalado wanted to be a paralegal. She went to Texas Tech University for a year, but her younger brother was killed in a car wreck when he was 15, so she moved to Dallas to live with her father. She took a job at a daycare in Richardson, liked it and was successful at it.

She ended up at Sul Ross after visiting her best friend who was attending school there. At first, Regalado said her father wasn’t happy, but after a few months he realized it was a good fit.

Regalado said the education program at Sul Ross is excellent.

“People I met there, I’m still very, very good friends with,” she said.

She took a long-term substitute teaching job in Alpine, but said that area doesn’t have a lot of openings. She was advised to go elsewhere for better pay and benefits. Ector County Independent School District went on a recruiting trip to Alpine and the rest is history.

Regalado has a 21-year-old daughter, Marissa, who attends West Texas A&M University in Canyon. Marissa plans to attend nursing school.

ECISD has eight campuses on improvement required status under state accountability regulations. Ector Middle School, Noel and Zavala elementary are in their fifth year. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.

The school board on April 24 approved repurposing Zavala to a prekindergarten through first grade campus and Travis into a second through fifth grade school. Zavala would add a grade in a year and Travis would convert to second through fifth grade.

Regalado will have to move campuses as a result.

“We’ll have our same kids, just mixed with those other kids over there. It doesn’t bother me that bad. We won’t be here, but we’ll have another one close. It doesn’t bother me much, other than the physical moving,” she said.

She added that Travis is a smaller campus.

The students in her fifth-grade class will be moving on to middle school, but they care very much about her.

Jaycel Pili, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, confirmed that she tries to get Regalado to drink water instead of Cokes.

“A little bit ago, the doctor had told her to drink more water. Since I’m right here, I just kept watching and told her to drink more water. She does better. She tries to sneak some, but I always catch her,” Pili said.

She added that Regalado is an amazing teacher and her fellow students echo those reviews.

“She does everything she can to help us,” Pili said.

Rafael Robles, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, said Regalado is a kind, nice teacher.

“But when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. She gives (us) free time. We can get on the laptop, but there is a time to learn. She does have her days where she’s not mean, but she will have her days where she won’t put up. I get it we all have our days when we’re mad, but she’s a kind teacher,” Robles said.

He added that because Regalado had taught lower grade levels before, she wouldn’t know what to do with fifth-graders, but he said he has learned a lot from her. Robles has been at Zavala for two years and attended Cameron Dual Language Magnet previously.

Principal Linda Voss said anytime you have a teacher with experience, like Regalado, it’s always beneficial. At one point, Regalado was a kindergarten teacher and had Voss’ nieces in her class.

“My nieces loved having Ms. Regalado and it’s good because it helps build that community with the parents, with the kids,” Voss said.

When teachers know the parents, they can resolve issues quickly.