Alumna Learns Life Lesson of Perseverance
Martha Saucedo | Southwest Texas EC, 1994
By Chris Burrows | June 1, 2017
Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year honoree Martha Saucedo can point to many moments in her life that led to her success. Youth Tour is one.
“It opened a lot of doors and opened my way of thinking,” she says. “It gave me a reason to believe that there was so much more out there for me.”
Getting there wasn’t easy for her, however. She needed the help of a good teacher.
As a junior at Menard High School in Central Texas, Saucedo entered Southwest Texas Electric Cooperative’s Youth Tour essay contest at the prodding of English teacher Laura Austin. When the results came in, Austin broke the news to Saucedo that she’d been chosen.
“The next week I came back to school, and I told her, ‘I really can’t do this. My mom and dad don’t really have the extra money to help me out with this,’ ” Saucedo says, also admitting that she was a little scared.
Youth Tour is an all-expenses-paid trip, but students typically take extra cash for souvenirs. Austin collected $200 in a coffee cup passed among school staff to make sure Saucedo went.
“She said, ‘Sometimes you have to go out there, even when it’s scary,’ ” Saucedo remembers.
The trip to Washington, D.C., was her first trip alone outside the state. She participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and remembers standing in awe at the Lincoln Memorial.
“It was an incredible experience,” Saucedo says.
In 2004, nine years after graduating high school—after dropping out of junior college, becoming a single mom, working as a housekeeper, and being denied food stamps and Medicaid—Saucedo earned a degree from Angelo State University. She will begin her 13th year as a high school teacher this fall.
“This paper, this adventure, this co-op changed my life,” Saucedo says. “I found potential in myself, and a teacher took an opportunity to believe in me.”
When the principal at Brady High School nominated her for the statewide award that she would claim in October 2016, it again was Austin who encouraged Saucedo to submit the necessary paperwork.
“She said, ‘You know you have to fill out that application,’ ” Saucedo says. “So I did.”
For Saucedo, it’s her students—not the banner with her name on it that hangs at Brady, the acclaim or the speaking engagements—that are the greatest rewards.
“I’m hired to come into the school and to give them the opportunity to change their lives the way Ms. Austin changed mine,” she says. “I want to be able to give them wings and just let them fly. … That’s the joy in teaching.”