Two 2020 Duncanville High School graduates have published a children’s book, “The House Kitty.” Diana Reyes and Kelly Gutierrez wrote and illustrated their award-winning, bilingual book during their senior year. “The House Kitty” placed in the top five entries in the 2019 Texas Association of Future Educators competition. The two students qualified for the national 2019 Educators Rising competition, and their book took first place in Children’s Literature Pre-K.
Diana R. Reyes, author, and Kelly Y. Gutierrez, illustrator, are future teachers who hope to encourage kids to step out of their comfort zone. Pampered house cat Luna goes on a journey from being a scaredy-cat to learning the importance of trying new things. “The House Kitty” is available for pre-order in Kindle format ($4.99) or paperback ($9.99) on Amazon. Distribution of the book begins August 3.
“The House Kitty” Author Diana Reyes
Diana received her Education Aide I Certification as a 2020 Duncanville HS graduate. Her high school internship class deepened her passion for teaching, and she will attend the University of North Texas at Dallas to complete her teaching degree. She said the book was inspired by her real cat, Luna.
“Luna goes on many adventures everyday but it wasn’t always like that. She used to be very scared and timid to go outside, until she found out that she has more freedom to roam and do as she pleases. You never know you’ll like something unless you take that risk. I also connected that idea to when kids enter school for the first time. Tantrums and timidity take over because they don’t know what to expect. By reading this book, I hope they can learn to break through that barrier,” she said.
Luna turned two last April, Diana said, but she hopes to bring home another cat to keep Luna company when she’s not around. With three older siblings, Diana is the youngest and only girl in her family.
“I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister but I’ve grown to love being the only girl and all the spotlight on myself,” she said. “My dad’s name is Benjamin Reyes and my mom’s name is Alma L. Reyes. Fun fact, my mom and I are the only ones to have middle names. The only girls and the only ones to have middle names.”
Along with writing and teaching, Diana said she enjoys “spending time with my friends, family and Luna. It’s been really hard during this pandemic to truly enjoy ourselves and do fun things but my family and friends always find ways to converse and catch up throughout the week through phone/facetime calls or sending each other sweets.”
Illustrator Kelly Gutierrez
Kelly was also in the Education and Training program and a 2020 Duncanville HS graduate. She interned as a student teacher and received an Educational Aide I Certification. Kelly believes that knowledge is power, and enjoys the idea of sharing that knowledge with her future students. She will attend Cedar Valley College to further her education and become a teacher.
While she doesn’t have a cat, Kelly said, “Growing up I’ve always had furry friends and one aquatic friend! For now, I have three beautiful dogs: Bella, Biscuit, and Valentina. I am looking to expand the family but first, I have to persuade the queen of the house!”
She is the daughter of Juan Gutierrez and Juana Gutierrez. “The other day my parents were talking about how they both envisioned me in Duncanville’s marching band and in the uniform. They both expressed how happy they were to see me be a part of the band and achieve so much more, including my educational aide certification and the book, “The House Kitty,” Kelly said.
“I am the only child,” Kelly said. “Luckily, I didn’t grow up lonely as most would think, I grew up around all my cousins. I never had a dull day around them. Sadly, now that we have grown up, we have built our own paths which result in us barely seeing each other. Luckily we have ways of staying connected. One meme a day keeps us close.”
Kelly said, “I am going to continue with my studies to become an educator. I want to teach elementary, later on, teach older age groups. I also have a passion for cosmetology and hope to one day combine both worlds. As for art and books, I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. If I want to put something out there for the world, I want to make it as great as possible.”
DISD Teacher Mrs. Javaun Price
We also asked their teacher, Mrs. Javaun Price, for a few comments. She has been teaching 15 years in post-secondary and secondary education. Mrs. Price has taught in Duncanville ISD since 2009, and at the high school since 2012.
She said, “2019 was a stellar year at our Educators Rising National Conference and Competition. Not only did Diana and Kelly win 1st place, but Aalyhia Shillow, class of 2019, won 3rd in Impromptu Speaking. Dion Jamerson, also class of 2019, won 5th in Exploring Professional Support Service Careers. Dion actually advanced to nationals three years in a row, and placed in the top ten each year. They are both continuing their educational career aspirations at University of North Texas.”
“All of the students have an opportunity to explore and create projects that reflect their personalities and educational ideologies,” Mrs. Price said. “I am amazed each year at the accomplishments of the group, and embrace every opportunity to coach them to success. I cannot wait to be a part of the next big thing that comes from this exceptional group of students as they continue to write their success stories, one student at a time.”
Mrs. Price said she hopes her students “believe in themselves as much as I believe in them! If they embody the self-confidence and assurance that they can do all they set their minds to, that’s half the battle. Imparting soft skills as well as academic content while in high school sets the students on a path to college and career success. I am extremely blessed to shape the minds of our future educators, and I remind them daily that they are the difference makers. The future of education is in their hands.”