If adversity builds strength, Eric Hale could be indestructible by now.
But he just got rewarded for more than a decade of teaching and a lifetime of overcoming obstacles.
Wednesday, the Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards named Eric Hale Texas’s Elementary Teacher of the Year.
Hale was moved to tears during the virtual ceremony, which he watched from his classroom at Dallas ISD’s Burnet Elementary.
Ninety-nine percent of Burnet’s students are economically disadvantaged; 96% are Hispanic.
Some of Hale’s students have witnessed close family members being deported. Some lost their homes in a major tornado in 2019.
Then in 2020, COVID hit.
“So they’ve dealt with ICE raids, to a natural disaster, to a pandemic. And through all that, my school is still an A-ranked school,” Hale said.
Hale said he is the first Black man to win the state award.
He said his upbringing in what he calls a rough neighborhood in Phoenix helps him relate to his students.
In a tearful video posted to his Facebook page, he thanked his family, his school family, and the first and second graders he teaches.
“Every child that is from the tribe I came from – the tribe of if, if you weren’t being abused, if you had more money, if you had more resources, you might be able to be something. Keep trying,” he said. “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Hale will now represent the state of Texas in a nationwide competition.