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Student Spotlights

Graduate finds her outdoor classroom

Each morning Savannah Salazar walks the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie. Nestled in the middle of three subdivisions, the prairie is home to more than 300 species of unique plants.

Salazar was hired as the prairie’s first educator with the Bayou Land Conservancy to teach young visitors from area schools about bird and plant identification, the ecosystem and the prairie’s history. The outdoors serves as the perfect setting for her classroom – one she was called to during her education and career exploration at San Jacinto College.

For years, Salazar dreamed of teaching. However, when it came time for college, she wasn’t quite sure about becoming a school teacher. She was accepted to Texas A&M University at Galveston. While there studying marine biology, she found that the cost even with scholarships, proved too high to continue. Instead, she returned home and enrolled at San Jacinto College. She was familiar with the College from taking dual credit courses at La Porte.

“When I came back home, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Salazar. “I attended San Jacinto College and enrolled in education courses. I knew I wanted to teach what I had a passion for. I had phenomenal professors who inspired me on which direction to take.”

Dr. Debbie Simpson-Smith and Dr. Judith Maima were two of those professors. They quickly learned of Salazar’s passion and began guiding her to the next step of pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

“Savannah knew from the first day of class what she wanted to be when she grew up,” said Dr. Simpson-Smith, chair of the child development, education and psychology program. “She was so excited to become a teacher and help children open their eyes to the world around them.”

During her time at San Jacinto College, Salazar was an active member of Phi Theta Kappa, on the dean’s list and graduated with her associate degree with a 4.0 GPA. She also worked as a biology lab technician and gained valuable field experience at the Armand Bayou Nature Center. “People overlook community colleges,” said Salazar. “I learned a lot from my professors. They all have the passion that I want to pass along to others.”