Fond Memories: Ayala recalls 45 years at BISD, time at Russell Elementary - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Fond Memories: Ayala recalls 45 years at BISD, time at Russell Elementary

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Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2019 9:54 pm

In retirement Rachel Ayala is every bit the helping person she was for 45 years as a teacher, principal and administrator for the Brownsville Independent School District.

“I love my retirement, I enjoy life to the fullest, and I enjoy helping people,” she said last week at the Brownsville Public Library main branch, where she volunteers every Wednesday for the Friends of the Library.

She also belongs to the West Brownsville Garden Club and the Pan American Roundtable I, serving on the scholarship committee of both organizations.

Ayala retired in 2011 after a teaching career that started at age 19 at Victoria Heights Elementary School. She served as principal of Russell Elementary and Stell Middle School, and as a BISD assistant superintendent for the Porter High School cluster of schools among other positions.

Some of her fondest memories are at Russell Elementary where she started the chess program that became the model for BISD. Initially the program was a way to get some smart but non-engaged boys more involved in school. Russell won consecutive state chess championships from 1993-’99 under coach J.J. Guajardo, the teacher Ayala recruited to help her start the program. At first she used her own money to buy supplies. Eventually the school board funded chess programs for all elementary schools.

“Many of those students are now teachers in BISD and coaches in the chess program,” she said.

In those years BISD had no secretarial help in the summertime, so Ayala would take her three daughters, Mirtha, Marisol and Rachel Renee, with her to work.

“One answered the phone, one was in the library doing teacher supply bags and one was with me delivering textbooks to the teachers,” she said.

The experience apparently rubbed off. Mirtha Ayala Garza is the longtime principal of Longoria Elementary. Longoria closed and she is moving with her students to nearby J.T. Canales Elementary this year. Marisol Ayala Treviño is the principal of Manzano Middle School, and Rachel Renee Ayala is the principal at Hudson Elementary.

“My husband and I always encouraged our daughters that whatever profession they chose to always strive to be the best that they could be,” Ayala said. “They have all gotten their positions by their own merits. I’m very proud of them. They’re fantastic.”

Albert Ayala was a history teacher and coach at Rivera High School, meaning the entire family has devoted itself to BISD and educating the children of Brownsville. He passed away in 2004.

“I love seeing my daughters supporting each other and sharing ideas,” Ayala said. “They all have different leadership styles.”

She said she was blessed, as are her daughters, to have had husbands who understood the long hours required to be a principal.

Today her greatest fulfillment is when parents and students come up to her and recall their school days.

“School should be fun and that’s what they remember,” she said.

And then there are the grandchildren.

“I love my grandchildren,” she said. “I retired to be a mom and an abuelita. My favorite thing is to take the grandkids out to eat. It’s just me and them. I get them all to myself.”

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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