- Byron P. Steele II High School
Rose Garden ES cheer squad
Natalie Gutierrez thought it would be a good idea to start a cheer club at her school, hoping to create experiences for young girls as she enjoyed them. The fourth-grade English/Language Arts teacher at Rose Garden Elementary School figured she would be fortunate to have thirty participants, at most, take part. Imagine her surprise when nearly seventy applicants for the Cheer Club filled her inbox. But it has been a wonderful problem to have, as 63 girls practice their jumps, cheers and dances every Wednesday afternoon after school in the gymnasium.
“As a former head Cheer Coach at the high school level, I missed it,” Gutierrez said. “I also felt a need for a little school spirit at Rose Garden.” After Sarah Reed, Rose Garden ES principal greenlighted the proposal in the fall of 2021, the squad officially began practicing at the end of January of 2022.
The Cheer Squad is currently open to students in grades 2-4, and some of the benefits have been immediate. “The very first practice the team was huffing and puffing after 30 seconds,” Gutierrez said. “Our most recent practice had the entire team able to finish the song from the movie Encanto, ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’, which is three minutes and thirty seconds long.”
Aside from physical activity, the club’s goal has a higher purpose. “It teaches leadership and social skills to help students in the classroom and the real world,” Gutierrez said. “Cheerleaders are to promote school spirit and enthusiastically support all Rose Garden students and staff through personal attitude and attendance.”
There has been enthusiastic support for the endeavor, as Guterrez’s fellow teachers Tanya Acklen, Jennifer Cooper, PE Coach Melissa Olivia and two PTC volunteers assist at the weekly practices. Gutierrez adds there are three other colleagues at Rose Garden ES who have offered to help out on an as-needed basis. Help has also come in another form of generosity. Several employees at Rose Garden ES have sponsored girls who could not afford the $60 cost for shirts, bows and skorts with the cheerleader’s name on it.
Gutierrez sees her younger self in the current crop of Owl cheerleaders. She took part in cheer in middle school, at the varsity level in high school, and then competed and cheered as a member of the University of Incarnate Word. Many of her volunteer assistants also have extensive experience in dance or cheer. “Watching the cheerleader’s eyes light up or or getting videos from their parents of them practicing at home reminds me of where my love for the sport started years ago,” she said. “I know all it takes is one adult showing interest and helping you along the way to change your life for the good.”