John Villarreal: Born to Teach

by Sarah Brock on Apr 19, 2015

Growing up with a father as a high school teacher, John Villarreal was inspired to follow in his footsteps. He fondly recalls watching his dad interact with his students while running errands in their small town.

“He taught most of the people in that city and we’d run into his students or former students and they would just always have something positive to say about him,” John says.  “I grew up wanting to be like him.”

The road to becoming a teacher, though, wasn’t an easy one for John. He began as a teaching assistant in the Houston Independent School District before enrolling in an alternative certification program. For his internship he was placed at Landrum Middle School in Spring Branch ISD teaching science. From there he did some work as a substitute before ultimately losing his job during teacher layoffs a few years ago.

With the cuts in education, John struggled to find a place where he could teach and ultimately ended up working at a sandwich shop for a year before receiving a call from Eric Schmidt, founding School Leader at KIPP Courage College Prep.

While the road to becoming a teacher wasn’t an easy one, the grit and perseverance to achieve his dream has helped John continue to push his students to achieve theirs.  

“I walk into families’ and students’ houses and apartments. I sit down and talk to them and make these promises,” John says of his home visits. “I don’t want to let them down – my students or my team. I don’t want to let my original goal and dream of being a positive change in the world and in society – I don’t want that to die. I want to feel like I gave it my all.”

With the recent birth of his first child, John has found a renewed sense of inspiration in his work thanks to his son.

“I’ll definitely look at a student and think – they have their mom and dad who love them and care for them and they’re somebody’s baby,” John says. “Being a father – it’s definitely opened my eyes to this isn’t just work. This isn’t just me waking up in the morning, getting ready for school, teaching the students a few things, and then going home and doing it all over again. This is more than that. This is life.”