Educator Spotlight: Meet Omar and Fely Lopez
Husband and wife teaching duo in Texas balance work and life with constant compassion
This story is part of a series that celebrates outstanding teachers in our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
Early on in their marriage, Omar Lopez would walk into the garage to find his fishing lures color-coded. Again.
His wife, Fely, would then sneak around to tackle his office desk next, organizing paperwork and color-coding his folders there, too.
“I wanted to ‘fix’ everything for him!” Fely says. “I would organize his classroom the way it was perfect for me. And I’d be so excited and proud, like, ‘So, do you like it?!’ And he’d say, ‘No, no! This is not the way it goes!’ So now, I’ve learned to appreciate his own way. At least my desk is still neat!”
They smile at each other so big, her small hand on his big shoulder, with all the inside jokes and fond memories over the years and a respect for one another that could rule the world.
“She’s linear and very organized, and I’m more abstract,” Omar says. “She sees long-term, I see short-term. Everything has to be just right for her, where I’m like, ‘Okay, it’s going to get done, but slow it down.’ Our energies are very different – she’s literally jumping all over the place, I’m more reflective – but we complement one another perfectly.”
With all the affection and all the passion anyone could muster in a day, Fely will get your attention, and Omar will make you stay. They are two fellow teachers in La Joya, Texas, who have been married for nearly 20 years, and if you’ve yet to meet them, any student will tell you this is true: Their love – opposite personalities and all – will inspire you to love that big, too.
Fellow Educators Lead With Empathy
Omar and Fely met in an English class at a community college. Fely had recently moved to the United States after completing her education in Mexico, where Omar had grown up until age 10. After a year of dating, they decided to marry.
“We told our parents on a Sunday night, and we got married Wednesday of that same week,” Fely says. “When we decided to get married, we had nothing. We only had money saved for a wedding dinner for our parents, and we didn’t even have a table for our apartment. Do you remember, Omar?”
He nods slowly and warmly. “It was a folding table and folding chairs,” he says.
“But we were super happy with it! And we worked very hard,” Fely adds. “We had my outline with all of our goals, and we accomplished a lot, little by little. We’ve been co-pilots ever since.”
Today, they are both educators at Irene M. Garcia Middle School, only a mile from where Omar grew up. He teaches technology applications, and she teaches teachers as an ESL strategist. They both lead with empathy, warmth and, above all, passion.
“We have a lot of emphasis addressing the ELL population, because we see a lot of what we struggled with ourselves as far as the challenges,” Omar says. “We always start by looking at the strength and the value of each student and just helping them do better. We know that everybody’s got something to contribute.”
Advocating for Relationships, Kindness
Fely speaks emphatically about the importance of building relationships with students. She addresses them as her “sweethearts,” jumps onto the tables to share her enthusiasm and looks up to them with a kind of confidence that leaves them all feeling invincible.
“I remember my first year of teaching, my mentor said to me, ‘You’re not supposed to smile to the kids. They need to see you as their teacher,’ but I’m always super excited about teaching!” Fely says. “Unfortunately, a lot of these kids don’t see that smile at home. So I think that affection is our responsibility. If you don’t love your kids, they’re not going to learn from you.”
“She will do anything possible to give these kids what they need,” Omar adds. “She’s passionate. She loves unconditionally, and there’s not a single student who doesn’t feel that.”
For Omar, Fely says he’s the motivator, the former coach who arrives rationally but always with the end goal in mind.
“I’m the hyper one, I’m the dreamer, but he’s very Zen, and the kids see that,” Fely says. “He has this ability to read the kids right away and to teach in different learning styles because he knows that not all of your kids learn the same way. So he adapts, and everything is about teamwork.
“I will observe Omar talking to the kids as if he were on the field – motivating the students but from a very realistic point of view,” she adds. “He brings that Friday night football atmosphere to the classroom every day, and it’s beautiful.”
Of course, that teamwork exists at home, too. They both completed their master’s degrees while raising children and are now eager to get their doctorates together. Whatever kindness exists in their teaching, it began in the home, and it’ll end there, too.
“We’re always helping each other, pushing each other, pulling one another up and sharing ideas, but we do this for our children,” says Omar of their two boys. “It’s always about showing our kids the value of hard work, family and togetherness. Everything we do is together, but it’s great. I can’t see it any other way.”
He says it sweetly, with absolute conviction, and without breaking a glance from Fely, his co-pilot for life.