Cramming a towel under her bedroom door to hide the light, Elvira Salazar defied her father’s orders and studied late into the night to keep up with her high-school homework. Now a dedicated PowerUp instructional technology specialist with HISD, Salazar understands how giving every HISD high school student a laptop for both home and school use will help them to work more effectively and efficiently, not only in the classroom, but after school as well.
“This is going to transform how teachers teach and how students learn,” Salazar said. “I want to help integrate technology into their lesson plans to make sure that these laptops are an effective learning tool.” Salazar left teaching in another district and writing curriculum for Rice University to work with HISD teachers on the digital transformation currently underway.
Now, Salazar is training teachers at 11 PowerUp high schools, but she is especially excited about working at Chávez, because it’s located in the neighborhood where she grew up. “This is my home, my community,” she said. While an eighth-grader at Stevenson Middle School, Salazar was named Science Student of the Year by her teacher, Yolanda Thomas. “She planted the seed that I might be good in science and encouraged me to attend The DeBakey High School for Health Professions,” Salazar said.
After graduation, Salazar went to University of Houston, which she partially financed with a summer job. When she was short on funds for tuition, her younger brother Vicente Huerta added his summer earnings, and her father paid the rest. “It was a family effort,” said Salazar, who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
Salazar became a science teacher and a curriculum specialist at Galena Park Middle School while finishing her master’s degree in education at UH and starting a family. She became interested in working for HISD when she heard about the new Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan. After applying to be a STEM coordinator, she was hired instead to develop curriculum for PowerUp teachers.
“PowerUp is giving educators and students access to a world of information,” Salazar said, “but what it’s going to do for the students’ families is amazing. To have a device like this in the home is a very powerful thing.”