SAN ANTONIO -- The South San Independent School District celebrated Elizabeth Lujan's KENS 5 SACU Golden Apple ExCEL Award this week with a big celebration.
The Mariachi Band from South San High School entertained students and teachers at Hutchins Elementary as fifth grade teacher Elizabeth Lujan received the KENS 5 SACU Golden Apple ExCEL Award.
Music helps the students succeed. You can hear students singing any time of day in Elizabeth Lujan's fifth grade class.
"Anything we're studying, we just make up a song," explained Lujan as the students sang about math concepts.
It helps her bilingual students with vocabulary and concepts.
She sees the results with rising scores on the TAKS tests.
"I can see a lot of them tapping when they take it because maybe it's a song they recall," said Lujan.
Teaching by song is not all that sets this teacher apart.
"Everything they learn I try to tie it to the real world so they can see the big picture. I want them to realize when they are in their twenties they're still using math, still using science," she said.
On the day KENS 5 visited, it was movie day, and students had to establish a schedule using math skills.
"I have them plan a schedule determining how long it will take to get ready for the movie, pick up two friends, buy snacks and be in their seats before the movie starts," said Lujan.
Students then progress by groups to the popcorn station where, at the end of the exercise, they get to eat the popcorn. They are also learning measurement by measuring popcorn in cups, pints and quarts.
"My hypotheses was right. I had four cups, two quarts and one pint," said one bright fifth grader.
These students aren't just earning grades, they're earning a paycheck.
Every two weeks Lujan pays the students $4 in play money.
"They get paid on their daily work, homework and behavior," said Lujan.
They are charged a dollar rent for their desk, a dollar for the CPS bill, and with the two dollars left over they can go shopping at Mrs. Lujan's La Tiendita.
"She sells all these cool things I like to buy," beamed fifth grader Maria Ramirez.
Students can choose from toys, books and gum that Lujan pays for out of her own pocket.
"I haven't had a single behavior problem, or had to send a student to the office. They all are eager to turn in their homework," said Lujan.
Fifth grader Francisco Equia's face beams when he is asked if the paycheck makes him get his homework in daily. "Yes!" he answered enthusiastically.
"I did work at Southwest Research, and this is not what I was called to do, so I went back to school and got a second degree to be a teacher. I just had passion and love for children," said Lujan.
It's clear that teaching is Elizabeth Lujan's calling. It’s evident in her student's smiling faces and successful scores on the TAKS test.