May 31, 2023

Meet the Mastery Coding Teacher Champions!

We are proud to introduce our 2022-2023 Mastery Coding Champions!

Share this article

This hand-picked group of innovative educators is being highlighted for going above and beyond in ensuring that their students are future-ready. As a special treat for our readers, we asked them what advice they would give to new teachers. Here's what they said:

Sajida Boland from Shirley Lane Elementary

Sajida Boland

  • School: Shirley Lane Elementary
  • Subjects: STEM
  • Fun Fact: Sajida speaks three languages!
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Ask Questions.”

Alexa Orengo from P.S. 21

Alexa Orengo

  • School: P.S. 21
  • Subjects: ELA, Math, & Writing
  • Fun Fact: Alexa loves food, music, shopping, reading, tv, video games, and quality time with her loved ones.
  • Advice for New Teachers:

“You have to be patient, flexible, and compassionate at all times. Empathy and understanding are vital because a lot of these kids go through so much at home that we don't even know about. Stay alert to their emotions and well-being. Be vigilant and ask questions about their home life to make sure they are safe and cared for.

"Don't underestimate what you can do under high levels of stress. Stay hardworking and make sure you always plan ahead- it's a lifesaver! Also, make sure you are able to balance work and personal life. I know it's easier said than done but you have to practice leaving work at work. ALWAYS BE THE LIGHT FOR THESE KIDS. They need it!"

Jason Collar from South Junior High School

Jason Collar

  • School: South Junior High School
  • Subjects: World History, Game-Based Learning, Esports
  • Fun Fact: Jason loves gaming, the gaming community, and incorporating gaming into education.
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Try new things without expectations, embrace failure, and trust your students to help you understand new digital applications, as they are the experts!”

Robert Funesti from Dnald M. Payne echnical High School

Robert Funesti

  • School: Donald M. Payne, Sr. Technical High School
  • Subjects: Game Design & Programming
  • Fun Fact: Robert is a semi-professional bass player!
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Make as many connections with your fellow educators as possible, in and out of your district”

Alberto Escobar from Johnny Economedes High School

Alberto Escobar

  • School: Johnny Economedes High School
  • Subject: Video Game Design
  • Fun Fact: Alberto is a competitive gamer!
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Put yourself out there!”

Isaac Dixon from Ysleta ISD Career and Trade Center

Isaac Dixon

  • School: Ysleta ISD Career and Trade Center
  • Subject: Video Game Design
  • Fun Fact: Isaac has been a gamer since 1988. The first ever video game he played was a boxing game on the Intellivision console. He was only 4 years old when fell in love with video games. Now, he’s passionate about teaching students how to make video games, VR environments, and AR applications with Unity. 
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Stay passionate about what you do. There will come a time when it does get tough at the beginning but remembering why you got into teaching will push you through. Throughout your career remain relevant in technology, teaching trends, and world trends. With the coming of AI, it is important to stay ahead of the curve and use it for positive efficiency.”

Oscar Palomino from Career Center at YISD

Oscar Palomino

  • School: Career Center at YISD
  • Subjects: Cybersecurity & Video Game Design
  • Fun Fact: Oscar learned how to read fluently in elementary school because of the video games he was playing!
  • Advice for New Teachers: “It is OK to show your students that you don't know the answers to all the questions and be open to learning from your students. Find interest in common to relate to them.”

Robby LaPlante from Desert Ridge High School

Robby LaPlante

  • School: Desert Ridge High School
  • Subjects: Esports
  • Fun Fact: Robby has been coaching high school sports for 18 years!  

  • Advice for New Teachers: “Focus on the areas you are strong at.  Your passion in those areas will carry you through some of the areas you are less as strong in.”

Ronnel Datlag from Pinole Valley High School

Ronnel Datlag

  • School: Pinole Valley High School
  • Subjects: Physics
  • Fun Fact: Ronnel can solve a Rubik's Cube in around 10-11 seconds!
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Building good and trusting relationships with students pays off long-term.”

Robert Rose from Lma City Schools Aspire

Robert Rose

  • School: Lima City Schools Aspire
  • Subjects: GED Math, RLA, Science, Social Studies & Unity Intro to Game Dev
  • Fun Fact: Robert’s getting married this October. Congratulations, Robert!!!
  • Advice for New Teachers: “Learn along with your students. Despite the best-laid plans, bugs will occur. Know you have the support system to overcome those challenges in the end... but don't be afraid to try to solve them first on your own too, they are often some of the best learning experiences for yourself and the students. Every hurdle brings another strategy you can add to your toolbox.”


Olivia has background in behavioral ecology and data analysis. She develops and implements SEO, CRO, social media strategy, and authors multi-disciplinary content for our blog, & our social media sites. She's contributed to many of the STEM tie-ins within our curriculum, authored our SEL course, and is a specialist in neurodiverse learning strategies.

Latest Posts

See all blog posts →