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Former Woodward Elementary student returns to teach first grade

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Former Woodward Elementary student returns to teach first grade

Arely Cardenas, a former Woodward Elementary School student, has returned to the school to teach first grade. Photo provided by DeKalb County Schools.

Atlanta, GA — A former Woodward Elementary School student has returned to the school as a first grade teacher.

“Arely Cardenas once walked the halls of Woodward Elementary School as a bright-eyed student with a passion for learning,” a press release from DeKalb County Schools says. “Now, her life’s journey has returned her to the familiar educational setting, where she learned that anything is possible.”

Cardenas said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher someday.

“When it came time to decide on a major for college, without a doubt, I knew I would be going into education,” Cardenas said in the press release. “I wanted to become a teacher, so I could show kids who look like me and come from a similar background all they can be. I never really had Latinx teachers growing up, so I wanted to bring that representation into the education field.”

She always loved school, the press release says, and her mom instilled in her the importance of education at an early age.

“She loved helping her classmates and teachers and admired and respected all her teachers,” the press release says. “One of which was her former fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Robin Thomas, formerly Ms. Simmons.”

They’re coworkers now.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I felt proud at that moment to show Mrs. Thomas what had become of me.”

Thomas said she was “ecstatic” and “proud and just overwhelmed” to see her former student back at the school.

“I was so proud but not surprised,” she said. “She was always an awesome student and so smart.”

Thomas is now an English to Speakers of Other Language teacher, and has been at the school for 16 years. She still kept the class photo that includes Cardenas, the press release said.

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