Each morning, Savannah Salazar walks the Lawther - Deer Park Prairie nestled in the middle of three subdivisions and home to more than 300 species of unique plants.
She 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 serve as the perfect setting for her classroom – one she was called to during her education and career exploration at San Jacinto College.
Salazar dreamed of teaching for years, but 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 and while there studying marine biology, she found that the cost, even with scholarships, proved too high to continue. She decided to return home to the college she once took dual credit courses from while at La Porte High School.
"When I came back home, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," said Salazar. "I went ahead and 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 who 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 child development, education, and psychology. "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.
“She has a combination of self-discipline, persistency and a tremendous curiosity on her part," said Elisabeth Harthcock, Salazar's former chemistry professor from San Jacinto College. "A constant word in her vocabulary is 'why.' I think what is very interesting about her trajectory is that she has success stories, this one included, to pass on to her students as a great motivator because she has walked in their shoes."
Salazar also credits San Jacinto College chemistry professor Christopher Wild and geology professor Malcolm Sadler as having played roles in her science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
"People over look community colleges," said Salazar. "I learned a lot from my professors. They all have the passion that I want to pass along to others."
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.