10:13 AM

Educator and former student reunite as coworkers at South Texas College


When Celia Sanchez (left) was a young student, little did she know that she would make an instant connection with math instructor Veronica Dominguez. The two would form a great friendship that would endure past Sanchez’s teen years and make an impact into her choices as an adult.

As the Math Department’s new faculty secretary, Celia Sanchez and Mathematics faculty member Veronica Dominguez look back fondly on a friendship that was created when Sanchez first entered Dominguez’s class as a middle school student in the early 2000’s.

Now as coworkers at South Texas College, the pair say life has come full circle. Sharing a bond for nearly two decades, Sanchez and Dominguez agree that their respective stories have been shaped not by tragedy and failure, but by inspiration and the courage to find hope through the most difficult times.     

“Life and learning were very hard,” Sanchez said about her middle school years. “It wasn’t until I met Ms. Dominguez, who was my math teacher in middle school, that things slowly got better even though she can tell you my eighth-grade year was horrible. There was a lot of crime going on, and I did have a hard time learning things because of the environment.”

Raised by her mother in a single-parent household compounded the problems she faced. Sanchez said she witnessed fellow students doing drugs and committing crimes. The situation created an extremely stressful learning environment for students and teachers alike, which gave her crippling anxiety, which she still struggles with to this day.

“The one thing that really affected me was not having my dad. I did not know my biological father, but when my stepdad came into my life, he would try to help me at home, and then Ms. Dominguez would help me at school,” Sanchez said. “I loved that I had these mentors in my life. I love my dad, Daniel Villarreal, because he took that responsibility to take care of a child that wasn't his blood and because of that he earned that title ‘dad’ not stepdad.”

Dominguez said she taught at secondary education for five years and attempted to help many “at-risk” students reach their potential. Some like Sanchez even exceeded her expectations.     

Celia Sanchez

“She showed a lot of kindness and a lot of love to the students, and when I would struggle, she taught me in such a way that I could understand the material. It was at that moment that I realized there are good people who care. I saw that in her. I became really good at math. I began to get A’s,” 

Celia Sanchez

“A lot of crime happened in the classroom. There were kids on drugs and kids being expelled even though many were only in eighth grade. I still didn’t judge them.” Said Dominguez, who is now an assistant professor of mathematics at STC. “No matter their background, no matter what they did or what class they were put in, my approach as an educator has always been about showing enough love for your students so they achieve their dreams in and outside of the classroom. You have to praise them when they do well and direct them when they are not doing well. You have to try to get them back on track regardless of their situation.”

Sanchez said the approach by Dominguez enabled her to consider her own future helping students realize their potential. Years later, and shortly after graduating high school, she began her career working in a seasonal migrant Head Start program. For more than a decade, Sanchez said she worked with younger children, some with special needs, so they developed proper learning habits as they entered school.

More recently, Sanchez was hired as the Math Department’s full-time faculty secretary in December 2021, which enabled her to finally reunite with her long-time mentor.

Along with administrative tasks, her position with the department has her assisting students taking developmental math courses, scheduling classroom visits and helping with student recruitment at various campuses.

“She (Dominguez) showed a lot of kindness and a lot of love to the students, and when I would struggle, she taught me in such a way that I could understand the material. It was at that moment that I realized there are good people who care. I saw that in her. I became really good at math. I began to get A’s,” Sanchez said. “I always say that she has a golden heart and so does my Dad. And those are the people that I think we do need in this world because it can make a big difference to anybody going through what I went through.”

In return, Dominguez said educating students like Sanchez over the years has developed her own understanding of how success can be defined, and it transcends a good GPA, she said.

“The stress of being an educator can sometimes be overwhelming, but seeing the success of many students makes it all worthwhile. Their success motivates me to keep doing my best for my current and future students,” Dominguez said. “The students have taught me that we are all human. Even at the post-secondary or college level the students bring outside problems, stress and anxieties into the classroom. We are in this together to overcome as many obstacles as we can. I ask my students to try and get a little better at math every day, and to do their work in their other classes so they can reach their goals. We are people, and we're all in this together. We just have to get a little better every day. You will reach your goal one day as long as you don't stop. I guess I've learned just as much from them as they have from me all these years."