ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — While standing at the front of her 6th grade World Cultures class, Elizabeth Rodriguez dove into how different forms of government work.
She held the attention of her students at Round Rock ISD’s Deerpark Middle School while explaining differences between monarchies, oligarchies and democracies.
Come lunchtime, it’s her student, not government, that she digs into.
When we met Rodriguez she was dining with Isaiah Odem, one of 120 students who she hopes to eat with this year.
Odem munched on a chicken sandwich and tader tots, Rodriquez opened up a hard-boiled egg, all while discussing Odem’s hobbies, family life, and favorite foods.
“Makes you feel appreciated, makes you feel like I’m worth something,” Odem said.
Rodriguez got the idea after a school-wide training with National Educators for Restorative Practices. She said it’s allowed her to see her students in a new light.
“When you put that individual attention on them, they shine, they literally become a student that you don’t even see in class,” she said.
The conversations aren’t always fun.
After starting the lunch meetings earlier this year, Rodriguez said she’s already had students break down to her.
“I’ve had students tell me things that, it’s heartbreaking, it’s heartbreaking,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve had students cry, just sharing, but it’s better than keeping it bottled in there.”
Though painful in the moment, Rodriguez believes the conversations give students an outlet and ally.
She hopes that when it’s time to return to her lessons, students will view her as not just their teacher, but as a trusted adult who cares.