Q&A with Ana Guzman Bautista: Catch Up & Read Exemplary Teacher

Interview by Angelica Villa. Photos provided by Catch Up & Read.

Ana Guzman Bautista, 2nd Bilingual Reading Teacher at Marcus Elementary School in Dallas ISD.

As the end of the 2023-2024 school year comes, we wanted to take a moment to highlight one exceptional Catch Up & Read teacher, Ana Guzman Bautista. Catch Up & Read is a Dallas nonprofit that harnesses the power of literacy to change lives and communities. This month, they have hosted multiple end-of-year celebrations to recognize 750 students who have made positive and life-changing leaps in literacy this school year. Each of the students participates in twice weekly after-school reading instruction by Catch Up & Read-trained teachers, like Ana. Students received approximately 70 hours of teacher-directed intervention. Last year 93 percent of students achieved measurable gains in reading proficiency.

Ana is an exemplary educator who has embodied the spirit of Catch Up & Read for the past two years. Ana’s commitment to her students and her craft is unmatched, but what truly sets her apart is her unwavering dedication to continuous improvement. According to Catch Up & Read President Carol Goglia, even Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde couldn’t find a single “upgrade” suggestion for her during a classroom walk-through – a rare feat. Ana’s journey with Catch Up & Read has been nothing short of inspiring. Join us as we celebrate Ana and the countless lives she has touched through her passion for teaching and the power of literacy.

Tell me about your journey in education. What inspired you to become a teacher, and how has that led you to become involved with Catch Up & Read?

My journey in education started when I was 9 years old and I had to travel to the United States. I was a newcomer in a bilingual classroom, but I was not alone. I had a champion fighting for me. Her name was Mrs. Romero, and I knew I wanted to be Mrs. Romero for other kids. Mrs. Romero inspired me to become a teacher when I was only 9 years old. From then on I dedicated all of my elementary, middle school and high school to becoming a teacher. In high school I joined a program that allowed me to go to an elementary school and begin helping teachers with kids. The fact that I was able to teach children to read pushed me even more to become a teacher. At the time I had no type of legal status in the USA. Finally one day, I was able to get DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). I attended Brookhaven College for my associates degree, then transferred to Texas Tech with their TECH TEACH program. I have been a teacher for 3 years, and I love my job because it is my dream come true! All of this has led me to become a Catch Up & Read (CAR) teacher, because I get to inspire and fight like a champion for other kids at my school. As a Catch Up & Read teacher I get to teach newcomers at our school how to read, and to try to inspire them to not give up on their dreams. Catch Up & Read provides me with a strong curriculum through which I always see amazing growth in my students. Catch Up & Read also provides me with reading strategies for my own classroom. That is why I have completed two years with CAR and plan on continuing.

Can you share a memorable moment from your experience with Catch Up & Read that exemplifies your students’ success?

Catch Up & Read helps me accelerate students’ reading abilities and thus their confidence and success. Last year, one of my striving students was Hector. He started with me at the beginning of CAR tutoring. Despite being in first grade, Hector did not recognize any letters or know any of their sounds. Within months Hector was reading words. And by the end of that school year, Hector could read and write on grade level. Hector’s self esteem went through the roof! He thought he could do anything, and I knew he could. That is a testament to what Catch Up & Read does–it empowers teachers to transform lives like Hector’s.

How do you collaborate with colleagues, parents, and the broader community to support student learning and development?

I collaborate with my colleagues by sharing best practices that I use with my CAR students during tutoring time. For example, I tell them about vocabulary practices with the Word Collector jar and the benefit of daily review of the silabas trabadas chart. I am also able to discuss student progress with parents in a very concrete way. I can share how their students are progressing on the Phonics Survey or share the growth of fluency using CLASS. This helps parents understand and invest in their students’ learning.

How do you adapt your teaching approach to accommodate your students’ diverse needs and learning styles? Does this include prioritizing social-emotional well-being?

Catch Up & Read helps CAR teachers identify and teach students with different needs and learning styles. For example, we give all CAR students a Phonics Survey which identifies gaps in student learning. Our CAR groups are then clustered by need and not by grade level or homeroom. CAR lessons also address many learning styles as CAR teaches us to engage with students in a variety of ways including multiple response strategies. Additionally, with Catch Up & Read, the social-emotional part is already encoded into the curriculum. When I use CAR’s emoji check in, my students share how they are feeling, they tell me why they feel the way they do, and they feel closer to me and I feel closer to them. I know regardless of their feelings that day, we are going to work hard and be great at reading. That is part of the magic of CAR!

What message or advice would you like to share with other educators?

My advice would be to get involved with Catch Up & Read! Catch Up & Read is unique because it is more than a tutoring program. The CAR staff cares about the CAR teachers. They show it by walking alongside us, encouraging us and coaching us in our literacy practices. As they pour into us, we are able to give to our CAR students. In addition they provide you with a powerful intervention curriculum that is based on the science of reading. This not only helps you work with your CAR students, but it will help you with ALL your classroom students. It has been a great part of my education journey.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future of education, and how do you hope to contribute to positive change within the field?

The most important thing that we can do for the future of each child is to get them reading on grade level. I’m working on that goal every day through Catch Up & Read and in my classroom. I am also passionate about supporting the parents and kids of newcomers to our schools. I also help out highschool students who do not yet have legal status and are not sure how to navigate the college process. I help high school students fill out college applications since their parents may not know how to fill out applications or what paperwork to send. I help them apply for scholarships like TAFSA – which is a scholarship that kids without U.S citizenship can receive but most do not know about. Most of the kids I work with think that there is only FAFSA! I also help my community by helping them enroll in school (for parents who do not know how to or who might not have internet access). In the future I hope to continue to make an impact on all grade levels, not just elementary school and high school. I hope I can find a way to help middle school students as well.