Cedar Hill ISD Graduate Follows Her Heart Back to Permenter SPED

Photo courtesy of Cedar Hill ISD

Juliana Cantu Is In Her 9th Year at Permenter Middle School

(CEDAR HILL, TEXAS) Juliana Cantu didn’t know that soccer would change the trajectory of her professional career.

Cantu, a Cedar Hill High School Class of 2007 Graduate, was a four-year letter winner for the Cedar Hill High School Girls Soccer Team and a three-time Team Captain. She earned a full scholarship to East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma.

Her soccer coach, Heather Parks, inspired her to be part of the Partner PE (Physical Education) Program where scholars partner with Special Education Scholars.

Cantu initially planned to become an Occupational Therapist after earning a degree in Biology. Once she traveled south of the Red River – college degree, in hand – she chose to become an educator.

Cantu’s now in her ninth year at Permenter Middle School (and 10th overall in the district) as the Special Education Department Chair and one of three Special Education teachers on the campus. She teaches all subjects, including Career Exploration and Life Skills.

Cantu was a scholar at Permenter between 2000-2003 after moving to Cedar Hill from Oak Cliff as a sixth grader.

Being An Educator Is Rewarding

“When I came back, it brought back so many memories,” Cantu said. “It was rewarding to see the changes in the school and the atmosphere, being in that teacher role now.”

Cantu enjoys seeing the progress that her scholars make from entering the campus in sixth grade to graduation in eighth grade.

“It’s so rewarding to be in that environment again,” Cantu said.

“Special Education is definitely much more integrated than when I was in school. People know about this department. We teach the same TEKS as the other scholars, it is just modified.”

Cantu made the varsity soccer team as one of three freshmen in 2003-2004. Last year, that team was selected to the Cedar Hill Longhorn Legacy Athletic Hall of Honor. Due to COVID-19, the ceremony has been postponed until 2022.

It was during her time on the soccer team that Cantu met then-senior Melissa Tyler, who was the 2019-2020 CHISD Elementary Teacher of the Year at Waterford Oaks Elementary. Tyler encouraged Cantu to become an educator after she graduated from college.

Their teacher, Parks, still works in Special Education for CHISD as an Instructional Specialist.

“Juliana was a great partner in Partner PE,” Parks said. “She was always full of energy and willing to work with any scholars. She truly made a difference and can still talk about some of the (SPED) Partners she had in high school. Seeing her come back and teach our SPED population scholars makes me very proud.”

Cantu graduated in the Top 10 Percent of her class and was a member of the National Honor Society.

In addition to working at CHISD, Cantu is a Cedar Hill citizen and the mother of three sons, two of whom attend Collegiate Prep Elementary. She earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Grand Canyon University.

“My life goal is to become a better advocate and to help families in need and to help the Special Education Community,” Cantu said.