SAN ANTONIO — This week’s KENS 5 EXCEL Award winner from Harlandale ISD gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'You’ve got mail.' She’s not only the special education teacher, math tutor, cafeteria monitor but she also delivers the school mail. Yet she never just mails it in.
Clarissa Kretz is the special ed instructional support teacher, but she’s got other roles too.
"That's the Falcon Post and I am the postmaster,” Kretz said as she waved one of her letters on the Zoom screen.
You can call her Postmaster Kretz.
"This letter I got today. It’s being delivered to a teacher who’s not at my campus,” she said.
A student at Stonewall Flanders Elementary gave her that handwritten letter to say thank you to a former teacher, Kretz said.
"He was an impactful teacher, and some kid remembered him, and I'm about to send this through interoffice mail. "
She's averaging 15 to 20 letters a day. The idea is not only a hit with students but also with teachers who tell her they feel appreciated.
"'I really needed to hear this Ms. Kretz' they tell me," she said. “'I needed to hear that I was doing a good job.'”
Kretz’s colleagues say she is exceptional.
“I can't say enough about how she extends her love to all of our students," one of them shared.
“I had one student a couple of years ago,“ Kretz said. “He was a fifth-grader reading at a pre-k Kinder level and he had dyslexia and he was always struggling. This kid, had passed either his writing or his reading STAAR test and everybody is like, 'How did you do that? How do you get a 70 on the STAAR test and he can't read but kinder level?'“
Many of her students have learning disabilities, but Kretz knows all the right ways to reach them.
“A lot of them can read words, but a lot of times they don't understand what they're reading because they're so busy trying to decode the word. It doesn't make sense to them," she said. "So then I tell them, 'Read it with expression.' I use a lot of the same words. I'm finding myself being my dad to my students, but they love it.“
Kretz spent years as a speech pathologist, then a high school life skills teacher and Special Olympics coach before landing at this elementary campus.
"I know right now in my heart this is where I was meant to be," she said.
Harlandale ISD Superintendent Gerardo Soto said Kretz has skills that are more needed now than ever.
"For our children during those COVID times, it's very important for our social, emotional well-being of our children," he said.
Kretz is also the math tutor on campus and she's so popular, she has a waitlist.
"I want them to say, 'I love school. I love it.'"
Kretz said they have kids not wanting to transition to middle school because they don’t want to leave her. She also serves as the cafeteria monitor and after-school student escort to cars.
As part of our KENS 5 EXCEL Award, Kretz received a $1,000 check from Credit Human.