Mr. Edgar Diaz, a Faithful Chemist
Alexander Landowski ‘19
Our newest Chemistry teacher, Mr. Edgar Diaz, does more than simply teach at a Catholic high school. He lives a life of faithfulness. To him as a Catholic, the most alluring element of coming to Strake Jesuit was the opportunity to work as a teacher while expanding and incorporating his personal faith into his daily work life. “The fact that we can start classes with prayers; that we have the Examen and Mass available in the mornings” makes it a desirable landing spot for this spiritual Catholic man.
Mr. Diaz grew up in the small south Texas border town of Westlaco. The son of Mexican immigrants,in this country for only a couple of years before his birth, he grew up in a grounded family dedicated to their heritage, along with his older sister and younger brother, who still reside in their hometown. Being so close to the border, the Diaz family would cross into Mexico on a monthly basis, a practice that gave Mr. Diaz and his siblings the opportunity to experience authentic Mexican food and culture.
While his dad worked in the life insurance industry and for big oil refineries in South Texas, his mom was a devoted housewife and mother. The Diaz children, meanwhile, were developing a strong work ethic, while their parents were making sure that they were exposed to the Catholic way of life. Every Sunday they would attend church, and Mr. Diaz would be upset that his parents would make him sit in the pew and listen to the priest, while his cousins were enjoying themselves in the “cry room” hanging out with other kids. He admitted to me that he hated it, yet, this exposure every Sunday at mass would result in his faith becoming a foundation for his life.
As a young child, Mr. Diaz enjoyed playing soccer and spending time with friends, but he also enjoyed reading and developed an affinity for playing guitar, which is still a hobby for him today. He developed a love for science during his junior year in high school. “I did a program, like a biotech internship, where I got to work in a lab and do some lab work, and I thought that was really cool,” he explained. A great inspiration to him during those years was Mr. Nielson, his chemistry teacher for both his sophomore and senior years. “He was a fantastic teacher,” Mr. Diaz told me. “He really pushed us hard,” which Mr. Diaz greatly appreciated. When he was not in the science lab, he was running cross country for his high school team.
After high school Mr. Diaz matriculated to Texas A&M, where he greatly expanded his scientific learning and training. As he pursued his education, he decided that he wanted to be a teacher, after realizing that much of his extracurricular work in college was focusing on elements of teaching. He said, “I was a bilingual tutor at the elementary school near my college. I did a program in Chicago as a mentor. I was also a mentor in college for a first year freshman.” These activities led him to believe, “I think that this might be for me. So, I gave it a shot.”
While his scientific knowledge was expanding, so was the practice of his Catholic faith. He quickly realized that as a college student with newfound freedom, you can decide whether or not you will practice your faith. Because of his experiences as a youngster in the church with his family, it was a natural transition to continue practicing his faith when he was on his own in college, just as his parents had hoped it would.
Before coming here to Strake Jesuit, Mr. Diaz taught for two years at Yes Prep, in Houston’s charter school system. While there, he experienced his most memorable event as a teacher, so far, in having his students perform a pig dissection. “I really enjoyed just kind of seeing them get excited for doing the experiment,” he told me. Although he hasn’t been at this vocation for very long, he finds it meaningful every time a student is struggling with a concept, especially watching their progress after working directly with them. That is the ultimate reward.
Mr. Diaz has enjoyed his brief time here at SJ and feels that the science department is a very closely knit group. He has felt very welcomed by the entire staff and has received tremendous support from his fellow teachers. “The students have been great, which is the best part, for sure. They are funny and have personality. I love it! It’s been a little getting used to, and just kind of finding my rhythm as a teacher, but… I just love all it has to offer,” he exclaimed.
When he’s not in front of a class teaching fundamentals of chemistry, Mr. Diaz enjoys spending time running and hiking. In his leisure time he reads and plays his guitar, hoping to recreate the sounds of Bastille or James Bay or other alternative rock or pop sound. This youthful and energetic man with diverse interests could not be happier about landing here at Strake Jesuit. He emphasized, “I’m really thankful that I have this opportunity here and get to share my faith more openly.”