BLANKET — Allen native Heather Avila’s graduating class in her 6A high school had more than 1,300 students — nearly 3 1/2 times the size of Blanket’s entire population.
Avila has adjusted just fine to Blanket’s small population and small school district, where she is in her first year of teaching after graduating from Tarleton State University.
Avila, who teaches fifth grade at Blanket Elementary, actually prefers the small size.
“I think the small districts are where I need to be,” Avila said in her classroom while her students visited the library. “It’s the best opportunity to get one-on-one with a student.
“In bigger schools, you’re juggling so many students, you’re not able to give the one-on-one attention that each student needs.”
Avila graduated from high school believing she was going to be an interior designer — but that changed when she took a job in a day care.
“I fell in love with it,” Avila said. “I worked with the after-school kids there. I knew that I could do that. I knew this was something I was good at.”
Avila attended community college, and later Tarleton. The education curriculum at Tarleton was rigorous and actually had her over-prepared for her first teaching job, Avila said.
“I love it,” Avila said of her job. “Especially coming from a big school, where it’s at least 24 to a class, being here with 14, 15 students — it makes it a lot better for them.”
Avila said she has dyslexia, which gives her added insight to dyslexic students in her classroom. “I use that to help them, and I say ‘look, I was there, I was in your shoes, I know what it’s like,” Avila said.
She said she’s an “open book” with her students and lets them know “it’s OK to struggle.”
Avila said the other teachers and staff have helped her break in as a new teacher. “They’ve been so helpful,” she said. “This school, honestly, is a huge blessing. And me coming in being the new teacher, it was a bit easier because most of these students have been with each other since pre-k.
“And so they were already like a group of brothers and sisters, minus the new students who came in this year. So really it was just letting them know that I’m here for them and that I am not just their teacher, but I am somebody they can come to if they need help. From what I could tell they took to me pretty quick.”
Avila, who lives in Comanche, is engaged to be married to a man named Ryan Ellis.
Avila said she would advise anyone thinking of going into teaching to “go for it. It’s hard. Go for it, though.”