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Rookie Teacher of the Year Goes Pro

Shelby Valdepena of North Ridge Elementary has many titles under her belt: Pre-k teacher, Rookie Teacher of the Year, and professional football player. Every weekend, Miss. Valdepena trades in her erasers and rulers for a helmet and shoulder pads to join the Texas Elite Spartans women’s professional tackle football team.

As part of the Women’s National Football Conference, the Spartans are breaking down barriers and turning the tides for women who dream of playing the sport.

“Our games are now being shown in airports across the U.S., and we have sponsors like Adidas, and Riddell,” Valdepena said. “These are all things that have never been done before. Women’s football has been around for decades, but this new league is giving us the recognition we deserve.”

Shelby’s love for football started thirteen years ago. “Back in 2006 my mom joined the Dallas Diamonds women’s tackle football team,” she said. “As an eleven-year-old girl, I thought this was the coolest thing and even became the team’s water girl.”

Shelby gives credit to her mom for her motivation to join the team two years ago. “My mom showed me that women can do anything you put your mind to,” she said. “When I told her I was going to play football, she wanted to start playing again to so she could play alongside me! I am so blessed to have grown up with such a strong woman as my role model who showed me what it looks like to take stereotypes and glass ceilings and smash them to pieces.”

Shelby gives 110% both on and off the field. She was awarded Frenship’s Rookie Teacher of the Year for the 2018-2019 school year and also received Special Teams Player of the Year this past season as the kicker and punter for the Elite Spartans.

“I want my students to know that it is important to step out and take risks and get out of their comfort zones,” Miss Valdepena said. “We have to have a growth mindset in everything we do and not just be limited to what we think defines us.”

When it comes to the girls in her classroom, Miss Valdepena has a special message for them. “There are no limits. Even if society places a limit on them, they can always challenge it and break the glass ceiling with a crowd of other women behind them supporting them.”