Malheur County teacher keeps the focus on students

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

NYSSA — Connie Cabrera became a teacher because of fish.

And some helpful encouragement from her family.

While inspiration from her family was critical in her final decision, it was the fish that proved to be the initial boost for her to become a teacher.

“I was going to be a marine biologist,” Cabrera said.

There was a problem, she said.

“I learned I had to actually touch the fish,” she said, with a laugh.

Thanks to her aversion to touching fish and the support of her father and mother and late husband, Cabrera decided to embark on a teaching career that kicked off in 1990 and is still going strong now.

Cabrera’s teaching accomplishments took center stage when the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce selected her as its Educator of the Year last month.

“I was totally shocked. It was a nice surprise,” Cabrera said.

Carbrera, who teaches dual language kindergarten at Nyssa Elementary School, said she loves her job.

“I like that you are still magical to” students, she said. “You get to see a lot more flickering lights.”

The lights are a students’ realization as they sudden unravel a problem or learn a new concept, Carbrera said.

“When you are a teacher you get to touch so many lives,” she said.

Carbrera said her 27-year career hinges on the influence of key people at crucial times in her life.

“My dad pushed me to go to college. He really was the one who said, ‘Hey, you can do this.’ And I had great teachers when I was younger,” Carbrera said.

Carbrera also said also felt a deep obligation to give back to the Nyssa community. Her family arrived in Nyssa from Texas when she was in the fourth grade. They were an immigrant family in a strange place, Carbrera said, and the town embraced them.

“Everyone in Nyssa just took us in. This community made me who I am,” she said.

Carbrera said as a teacher, she has the chance to make a positive impact every day.

“If can I can make a difference, even for one person, that will make up for what my teachers did for me,” she said.

Kindergarten students face a different paradigm than when she began her career, Carbrera said.

“The kindergartners of today are having to learn so much more. The demands are different, not just state mandates, but the world,” she said.

Creating a firm, nurturing learning environment is important, Cabrera said.

“We really hold the future in our hands. Our kids, they really are an investment,” she said.

Carbrera said she has also been fortunate as a teacher because she worked in the Nyssa School District.

“It is like a family,” she said.

She said she is aware that she could retire soon but isn’t quit ready for that step.

“I want to retire but I like being here. You come home exhausted but is so much fun. What am I going to do without my students?” she said.