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Guerrero Returns to Alma Mater as GIPS First Pathback Recipient

January 25th, 2024

Letters and class photos were sprawled across the table in Rebecca Waind’s Kindergarten classroom at Stolley Park Elementary. A handmade drawing, depicting Mrs. Waind with green hair, looked as though it was given to her that day. The paper edges were crisp and the crayon strokes were vivid.

Mrs. Waind kept this drawing, along with other pictures and letters, since the 2007-2008 school year. She and the artist, Waind’s former Kindergarten student Brandy Guerrero, reminisced about the letters and drawings. Fifteen years later, Guerrero’s path led to student teaching with Mrs. Waind in fall 2023.

“I’ve worked with kids all my life, and they just bring you so much joy,” Guerrero said. “Being a teacher is such a rewarding job, so that’s why I wanted to go into it. I want to build relationships and help students succeed,” she added.

Miss Guererro & Mrs. Waind smiling in a Kindergarten classroom

Thanks to the PathBack Program, Guerrero has now returned “home” to Stolley Park as a full time first grade teacher in January 2024. However, Grand Island Public Schools started recruiting her before she graduated from Grand Island Senior High in 2020. 

Guerrero is the first PathBack Program recipient to graduate and be hired by GIPS since the program’s inception in 2018. 

PathBack is just one way GIPS seeks to strengthen the future generation of teachers and support the community. The program awards students who have graduated from the Academies of Grand Island Senior High Education Pathway an opportunity to come back and teach at GIPS upon completion of their degree and credentials. 

“I think the PathBack program is really neat, and it’s a great opportunity for kids. I don’t know that everyone really realizes that,” Waind said. “I was of course delighted to have Brandy come back [to student teach at Stolley], but then to have her stay in the district…it’s super exciting! I think having the support she had, and knowing she had a place to go…I think that’s a great thing to offer,” Waind said.

Each year since the PathBack program began, the district has awarded two students heading into the education field. Interested students must be graduates from the Education Pathway and submit an application. PathBack students are connected to an education mentor within the district. Mentors are typically a teacher the student had during their time in GIPS. Mentors stay connected with the PathBack-ers throughout their collegiate careers and grant them opportunities to visit classrooms in the district when back on breaks or looking to complete observation hours towards their degrees. 

“I’m just excited that the Pathback program gave me an opportunity to return to GIPS and do what I want to do,” Guerrero said.

Co-teaching with her own Kindergarten teacher came naturally to Guerrero. 

“I really wanted to emphasize the structure and building that relationship [with the students],” Waind said of Guerrero’s student teaching time with her. 

She said Guerrero’s strength is building relationships, and she is well-loved and respected by the students. Guerrero was able to take charge and take turns teaching different areas. Waind said it was special to teach Guerrero as a Kindergartener and now watch her blossom as a new teacher.

Note to Mrs. Waind from Brandy Guerrero from when she was a Kindergartner


And, it is equally sentimental for Guerrero: both getting to learn from Waind again, and to be at Stolley Park Elementary. 

“It was cool to come back and be with her. It’s been a long time…it’s been since Kindergarten,” Guerrero said. “I knew it was an easy decision once I got offered [the job to teach full time at Stolley Park],” she said. 

“It feels good to be back with the people that I learned from,” Guerrero affirmed. “It feels good to come back ‘home’. And it feels good to be a Panther again.