In this week’s “I Am HISD,” which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, Sugar Grove Academy social worker Elba Ruibal talks about why she began working in public schools, what compelled her to move from a high school to a middle school setting, and one of the biggest challenges of serving refugee students.
Let’s start with a little background. How long have you been a social worker, and when did you first join Team HISD?
I’ve been in social work for about 25 years. I started out working with domestic violence victims at the Houston Area Women’s Shelter and was there for two and a half years. I also worked at the Women and Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, in the children’s emergency room. I came to HISD five years ago, and was at Westbury High School for four of those. This is my first year at Sugar Grove.
What made you decide to move into public education?
When I had my own child, I wanted to be with him in the summers. But I also dealt a lot with victims of domestic violence at the hospital, and I had to report abuse to Children’s Protective Services. Once those children left the ER, I never knew what happened to them, and thoughts of their welfare lingered. But in a school setting, I get to see those children every day and know that they’re alive. I get to follow up, make sure they’re safe, and in the best cases, watch them heal.