As one of the nation’s largest universities, Texas A&M prepares more teachers than any other public university in the state.

But behind the sheer numbers—more than 11,000 Aggie teachers in 753 school districts in 214 Texas counties—is a spirit of leadership and selfless service that pushes Aggie teachers to have the greatest impact where they are needed most. Merari Boffill, who graduated in 2018, is a case in point.

College as a Way Out

While growing up in the tiny Rio Grande Valley town of Elsa, Merari heard her grandparents’ stories of long hours spent picking fruits and vegetables in the Texas heat for just enough pay to survive.

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She saw her single mother’s constant worry about being unable to provide for the family.

“They didn’t want me to repeat their lives—lives filled with intense labor and immense stress because no matter how long or hard they toiled, they could never make ends meet,” she says.

They instilled in Merari the belief that college was not just an option—it was her way out.

When Merari graduated in the top 10 percent of her class—ensuring automatic acceptance to any public Texas university—she chose Texas A&M.

Helping Others Find Their Way

She also chose to become a teacher to help others find a way out through education.

Texas A&M’s College of Education and Human Development prepared me to teach students of all types, gave me insight into the best teaching methods, and further solidified the importance of education that my mom and grandparents made clear to me long ago,” she says.

That’s because the Texas A&M approach to teaching emphasizes real-world classroom training that prepares teachers for the workforce and also makes them highly prized by employers.

To earn a teaching certification, students must pass both a pedagogy and professional responsibilities exam—instruction in how to teach—as well as a content exam for their desired grade and subject. Those who want to teach at a high school level must also get a degree in their discipline.

Most Aggies pursuing a teaching path log about 700 classroom hours during college and secure job placements before they graduate. One result of this intense preparation is that graduates have a 25 percent higher teaching retention rate over a five-year period than the national average.

More than Book Learning

And now, Merari is helping others as a teacher in her native Rio Grande Valley.

“There is so much aside from book learning that can be gained from the classroom: hope, freedom and opportunity,” Merari says. “I let students know that through education, they can be anything they want to be and live any life they want to live.”

Her younger sister and brother are following Merari on the path she blazed. Carmen is a senior at Texas A&M, and Manny is eager to become an Aggie in a few years.

“Because of the opportunities afforded by a good education, my siblings and I can break the cycle of poverty that has plagued my family for generations,” Merari says.