New Charter School Boss Can’t Refuse Tyler Offer
By EMILY GUEVARA
It was while teaching in Taiwan that Keith Garcia realized education was the field for him.
After graduating from college with a communications degree, he went overseas to teach English as a second language and do missionary work.
"I just thought it was the most amazing experience being there," Garcia, 36, said. "I really like molding young minds, pushing them in the right direction."
Upon returning to the United States, Garcia obtained his teaching certificate and started work as a public school teacher.
The Victoria native will bring that passion and leadership style to Tyler where he recently was appointed director of the Vista Academy of Tyler.
The charter school is scheduled to open this fall and will serve kindergarten through fourth-grade students. It will occupy the Stepping Stone facility on University Boulevard.
Garcia said the company provided a good fit and he is excited about the opportunity.
"It's just an amazing time in education," he said.
The husband and father has five years of teaching experience at the junior high and high school levels. He taught communications in Victoria ISD.
He said the experience taught him about the differences in educating students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. He said while the high school provided more of a mixed demographic, the junior high was made up of primarily low-income students. The latter was a new experience for him and cemented his love for education.
"That was really a turning point when I knew that wow, this is something I want to pursue even more," he said.
Garcia went on to earn a master's degree in education and administration from the University of Houston-Victoria.
After being turned down at several schools because of more experienced candidates, he said he received an offer from Responsive Education Solutions, the charter school system that Vista Academy falls under.
Looking to expand its school opportunities, the charter system hired Garcia to head an academy in Victoria, but that school has yet to open. Garcia said when the Tyler opportunity came up, he jumped at it.
Garcia said the academy will provide small classes with individualized education plans or "learning paths" for each student.
"We're looking for kids who want to be there to learn, and families who are supportive of that," he said, adding that doesn't mean all kids have to be gifted and talented.
The college-preparatory curriculum is produced in-house by the charter school system. Garcia said instruction is accomplished through a three-part system with the teacher teaching the class as a whole first. Students then work in small groups or individually followed by time spent on the computer.
Garcia said the program's focus is academics and the school offers few, if any, extracurricular opportunities because of that.
"Our vast amount of day is between five to five and a half hours of ingrained instructional curriculum being driven into the kids," he said. "It's critical for the kids to not only like school, but to love it because that's where they become lifelong learners."
Garcia said the goal for the first year is to keep the high expectations for all kids and their families and to maintain constant communication with the families.