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February 23, 2013

Moreno's story is tale of triumph over hardship

Gainesville — Nora Moreno’s journey from working in the fields of Mexico to becoming an accomplished kindergarten teacher at Gainesville Edison Elementary has been filled with both trials and joys.

Born in the small village of San Jose de Las Flores in the state of San Luis Potosi Mexico, Moreno’s early years were not about playing with toys or wearing new clothes. Material things were scarce. Finding food was always a primary concern.

Being the third from the eldest child, Moreno already was aware she had responsibilities to help the family.

At five years old she often walked to a neighbor’s house and assisted them in milking the cows. Her pay was a small pail of milk which she carried home for her mother to give to her younger siblings.

She would also collect left over tortillas from nearby families to take home for the family. She received her first pair of shoes at the age of 12.

 An education was very important for Moreno and her siblings. Despite the fact that she would leave the house at 4 a.m. to work in the fields with her mother, she said she would always be home in time to go to school at 8 a.m.

“I would be so tired and not want to go,” she recalled. “My mother would always tell me to persevere and get an education. We were told to respect and obey the teachers. We were to treat them as if they were our second mom.”

In her village, school was only through sixth grade. She completed all her school had to offer and went to work as a housemaid in another town. Her job was to take care of the children of wealthy people. While she was at this location, she was able to observe the private tutor the children had.

“When she came to teach the children, I became aware of what a teacher does and I began to dream of one day becoming a teacher,” she said.

At the age of 17, Moreno came to the United States, married and had two children, Chico Cabrera and Vanessa Cabrera, both grown now with families of their own.

Through the years, however, Moreno never gave up her dream of teaching.

Speaking little English, in 1991 she volunteered at Nocona Elementary School to be close to her children.  The volunteer job became a paying job as bilingual individuals were in demand in assisting new Spanish speaking families moving into the area. She learned English as quickly as she could.

In 1992 a mentor and co-worker, kindergartner teacher Kim Gaskins, encouraged Moreno to get her General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

Upon completion of her GED, Gaskins took Moreno to North Central Texas College (NCTC) where she enrolled in college classes.

Moreno graduated from NCTC with honors in 2001 after years of studying, raising two children and working in and out of the home.

“Sometimes my children would sit in the back of the classroom to finish their homework,” she said. “When finished, many times my son would help me take notes since I was still improving on my English.”

Enrolling at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), Moreno enrolled in interdisciplinary courses and took many leadership rolls with bilingual student organizations. In 2002 she graduated Magna Cum Laude and began working in the Gainesville ISD.  

Following hard times in 2003 which included a divorce, Moreno moved to Gainesville to be closer to her work. She remarried in 2009 and the Morenos still call Gainesville home.

“I have the family I was born into,” she said, “And I have my Edison family that I grew into. All are very special people in my life.”

Moreno has received many awards during her teaching tenure and has even published an award winning book about her early years entitled, “A Child’s Poverty.”

“If I could send a letter back to myself in time to when I was four I would tell me that everything will be okay.”

Moreno recently was named the Teacher of the Month for Gainesville ISD. On hand at the Feb. 18 presentation was her mother who for the first time was able to witness one of her daughter’s many honors.

Moreno keeps a scrapbook which contains her clippings including graduation diplomas and accomplishments.

She said, “ I keep this to remind me of my journey and what it has taken to get me where I am today. Someday my children will look at it and hopefully be proud.”

On the front cover of her scrapbook is a quote from U.S. President Calvin Coolidge that she has adopted as her mantra.

‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.’

New goals she has set for herself include going back to college to get her masters degree in bilingual education and perhaps earn a doctorate one day.

“My heroes have always been my parents who always found a way to raise me and my siblings the best way they  could,” she said.  “We were not rich in material things but we were rich in the things that were important, love and family.”

As a small child, born in poverty, Moreno dared to dream of a life far beyond the confines of a small Mexican village. ‘I can’t’ became ‘I can.’

Today, she continues with that dream as she teaches others to believe in themselves.

“My mother was right,” she said “Perseverance is the key.”

 

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