Prac­tic­ing what they teach

Tor­res sis­ters re­ceive master’s de­grees

Porterville Recorder - - FRONT PAGE - By MATTHEW SARR msarr@porter­villere­

The con­cepts of life­long learn­ing and con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment are of­ten used by ed­u­ca­tors as guide­lines by which stu­dents are taught and ca­reer paths are formed. Sis­ters-in-law Angie and Liz Tor­res have ap­plied those con­cepts to their ca­reers in a very di­rect way, and have learned a lot about them­selves in the process.

Liz and Angie are vet­eran ed­u­ca­tors for the Porter­ville Uni­fied School District. Af­ter many years as class­room teach­ers, both tran­si­tioned to ad­min­is­tra­tive roles: Liz is cur­rently Olive Street El­e­men­tary School’s vice prin­ci­pal, and Angie is the vice prin­ci­pal at John J. Doyle El­e­men­tary.

But in a pro­fes­sion where tech­niques and meth­ods are con­stantly evolv­ing, both sis­ters felt that con­tin­u­ing their ed­u­ca­tion would be ben­e­fi­cial to the de­vel­op­ment of their skills and un­der­stand­ing of their craft.

So af­ter sev­eral years of hard work and a few stops and starts along the way, the Tor­res sis­ters both re­ceived their Master of Arts in Ed­u­ca­tion this last June from Brand­man Univer­sity.

It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a long and ar­du­ous jour­ney for

both of them, as they both com­pleted their course­work while work­ing full­time and rais­ing fam­i­lies. Both sis­ters ac­knowl­edge that the process of teach­ing by day and learn­ing in the evening was a daunt­ing chal­lenge.

“It’s im­por­tant to know that some­thing you feel is im­pos­si­ble is ac­tu­ally pos­si­ble,” said Angie Tor­res. “There are many ob­sta­cles that get in the way. Yes, you’re go­ing to fall. But when you do, you get right back up and learn from it.”

The Tor­res sis­ters rep­re­sent a grow­ing por­tion of the work­ing adult pop­u­la­tion who are re­turn­ing to school to en­hance their skill set. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics, adult learn­ers ages 30 to 34 years old are ex­pected to in­crease by 29 per­cent through 2024, and stu­dents 35 years old and over by 26 per­cent through 2024.

“In re­al­ity, there is no per­fect time to go back to school,” added Liz Tor­res. “Some­times you just have to make it per­fect.”

The Tor­res sis­ters were par­tic­u­larly lucky to have each other for sup­port through­out the process. Not only do they both work as vice prin­ci­pals in the same school district, but they are mar­ried to brothers, so their lives mir­ror each other in many ways in and out of the class­room.

“We have done so many things to­gether that I can’t imag­ine do­ing some­thing like pur­su­ing fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion with­out her right by my side,” said Liz Tor­res.

The knowl­edge the sis­ters ac­quired while ob­tain­ing their de­grees will en­able them to make more in­formed de­ci­sions as ad­min­is­tra­tors and face fu­ture chal­lenges with greater con­text and con­fi­dence.

“I wanted to take my next steps — to not only be a leader in the class­room, but be­yond it as well,” said Angie Tor­res.

Re­sum­ing the role of stu­dents af­ter years of be­ing teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors has given them new per­spec­tives on learn­ing as well. Both sis­ters ex­pressed a re­newed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the im­por­tance of a sup­port­ive and sta­ble learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment for stu­dents of all ages.

“It is im­por­tant to build pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with your stu­dents. You must ac­knowl­edge their fears and let them know it will be OK,” said Liz Tor­res. “Once that hap­pens and needs are met, the bar­ri­ers come down and stu­dents are ready for learn­ing. We ex­pe­ri­enced that our­selves in our course­work, and we took that per­spec­tive back to our sites and in­cor­po­rated it.”

When asked about ad­vice they would give to adult learn­ers, the Tor­res sis­ters noted that on­go­ing ed­u­ca­tion is an in­vest­ment in one’s self that is worth over­com­ing a few ob­sta­cles to ac­com­plish.

“Em­brace chal­lenges and know that in the end all your ex­pe­ri­ences add to your learn­ing,” said Angie Tor­res. “It’s OK to not have the an­swers and to not know. It’s what we do with that in say­ing in­stead ‘I don’t know yet.’ It’s mov­ing for­ward and not giv­ing up, even when things get over­whelm­ing.”

“Time is go­ing to keep on pass­ing by,” added Liz Tor­res. “You have to take the ini­tia­tive to move for­ward in your ed­u­ca­tion.”

Brand­man Univer­sity is a pri­vate, non­profit in­sti­tu­tion that serves 12,000 stu­dents an­nu­ally with pro­grams avail­able on­line and at more than 25 cam­puses through­out Cal­i­for­nia and Wash­ing­ton. The univer­sity’s on­line pro­grams con­sis­tently rank among the top in the na­tion by U.S. News & World Re­port.

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