A Harris County Department of Education employee for nearly 18 years, Gupta first started working for the Department as a teacher at the former High Point School North before it was reimagined into what is now Fortis Academy.
“I was a competitive swimmer and I represented my state, [West Bengal, India], in the national games,” said Gupta. “I do have a competitive nature. Not in the sense that I would compete with somebody in a negative way, but for myself. I want to always do better than what I did before, and I think I bring that to teaching. I always want to do more for the kids.”
Her supervisor, Fortis Academy Principal Anthony Moten couldn’t agree more.
“She’s an exceptional teacher,” he said. “She has an uncanny ability to connect with our kids and get them engaged in science. That’s a yeoman’s task, even with exceptional young students. For her to be able to have our kids gravitate towards that content and excel in it says a lot about her.”
Gupta emphasizes that her love of teaching isn’t so much about the subject matter as it is about how much she loves her students.
“It’s not just about teaching science, it’s about opening their minds,” she said. “It’s not that they cannot, it’s that no one has taken them the time to show them the possibilities. Sometimes their family settings are not conducive to learning. Sometimes things happen at home, and I have to understand that biology is not the priority for them in that moment.”
Moten describes Gupta as the “quintessential mother on campus” who shies away from attention.
“She could be our teacher of the year, but she doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want the attention,” said Moten. “She’s not in it for that. She’s very unselfish. She’s truly here for the kids.”
As a testimony to her efforts, Gupta saw six of her students graduate in the midst of the pandemic last year.
“I was so ecstatic!” she exclaimed. “If they were at a traditional school, they might have dropped out. We drove all over the city to all of their homes to do drive-by graduations. Watching them celebrate made my heart sing.”
Moten, to whom Gupta credits much of her success, is determined to recognize her contributions at the school.
“When she leaves, I’m going to name a hallway after her,” Moten jokes. “She’s not only a one-of-kind person, she’s the hallmark of what an exceptional teacher looks like.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that!” Gupta responds. “I always give him ‘the look’ so he stops talking about the hallway. I really like working at Fortis. My coworkers are not coworkers anymore. They are family. But I don’t know about the hallway.”
In the meantime, Moten will have to make do with her presence.
“Mrs. Gupta is going to be at Fortis for as long as I am here,” said Moten. “And I don’t have plans to go anywhere.”