For high school English teacher Jonathan Sixtos, the community college experience is “something you put on and take with you.”
“I saved big at Victoria College before transferring to Texas State University to earn my Bachelor of Arts in English with a Secondary Teacher Certification,” he said. “I received great support in pursuing my goals from VC faculty and staff who were genuinely interested in my future, not just my tuition check.”
Sixtos, 24, graduated from Victoria College in December 2009 with an Associate of Art degree and an Associate of Science degree, both magna cum laude. The following spring, Sixtos took a few more courses that fulfilled some of the requirements at Texas State. The extra semester gave him the opportunity to finish up some student government responsibilities and to give the invocation at VC’s commencement ceremony.
He enrolled at Texas State in the fall of 2010 and did some student teaching at San Marcos High School. He graduated in December 2012 with a Bachelor of English degree, a minor in psychology, and a secondary teacher certification, all while earning cum laude honors.
“The courses I had at VC were on par with Texas State. I came right out of VC, started at Texas State, and didn’t miss a beat.”
“I found that the rigor of the courses was comparable,” Sixtos said, comparing VC with his university experience. “The courses I had at VC were on par – as far as difficulty, materials, and instruction – with Texas State. I came right out of VC, started at Texas State, and didn’t miss a beat.”
He credits VC with teaching him leadership skills through involvement in the Student Government Association (SGA) and Phi Theta Kappa (PTK).
“I was inducted into PTK, and that motivated me to keep a high GPA,” Sixtos recalled. “My involvement in SGA shaped me perhaps more than any other organization while at VC, simply because of the magnitude of what all I was able to accomplish while involved.”
At his first Texas Junior College SGA convention, Sixtos was inspired to do more for VC through SGA and ran for SGA president the following year.
“I won the election, and immediately we reconfigured the SGA Constitution,” he said. “I scheduled a retreat at a local ranch in Yorktown where our team bonded, and we reconstructed our organization to better suit the student body.”
Sixtos said he gained valuable networking experience, polished his public speaking skills, and learned what it was like to be the driving force behind an organization.
His mentor through most of this process was Elaine Everett-Hensley, Director of Student Activities and the Student Center.
“She continually pushed me to accomplish excellence in all my goals,” he said. “In fact, for a period of time she was opposed to my running for state office until I could present a unified plan of action. She also supported me in the process of applying to Texas State and encouraged me to follow my dreams.”
His professors, such as Harry Wagner and Gina Ramirez-Mere, also encouraged him in his pursuits and served as references on several applications.
A few weeks before graduation from Texas State, Sixtos reached out to the Victoria Independent School District and learned that a teacher had quit midyear, creating an available opening at Victoria East High School for the soon-to-be graduate.
“It was a really good feeling coming straight out of college and going right into the workforce,” he said, recalling his transition from school to work. “I felt like I was prepared because of my coursework.”
The freshman English teacher is quick to express his love for his job and his 135 students.
“The kids are excited; we’ve got a really good team of freshman teachers,” he said as the occasional student peered into his classroom after the last afternoon bell had rung. “Each class has its own personality. It keeps the day interesting.”
Sixtos said the students voted him faculty homecoming king during fall homecoming activities.
Looking back in his recent academic experiences, Sixtos said he would advise students to take an amount of coursework that they can handle but to be cautious about overloading a semester.
“Many times, people think, ‘Well, I can handle it,’ but they are not quite prepared for the course load,” he said. “Too many times, a bad semester could persuade somebody to end their college experience, and that’s not the way to go.”
“I believe that if you establish good habits at the community college level, you’ll be just fine at the university level,” he added.
The new teacher credits his community college experience as a good gateway to establish his identity, develop good study habits, and gain interpersonal skills, “things that really helped my transition to the university life.”
“This may be an issue, especially as you look at larger universities and their retention rates,” he continued.
“A lot of students coming out of high school aren’t ready to handle a university. Academically, they might have the scores or the skills to get in, but I think, socially, community colleges are a big help to people still developing who they are.”