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Selena Sena, Justin Pena and Yilian Sanchez used to attend school at Crestwood Elementary. Now they teach at the west Hillsborough County school.

Three former Crestwood students return to teach at their elementary school

August 22, 2017

Back to school carried double meaning this month for a trio of new Crestwood Elementary School teachers, who returned to work at the same campus they attended as children.

As physical education (PE) teacher Justin Pena began class one recent day, he lined up students in the multipurpose room. Pena, 28, lists PE class as among his fondest memories.

“Don’t take the E out of PE,” he told students as he reviewed expectations for the year. “The E stands for education.”

Pena, who previously taught at Mendenhall Elementary School, said the class has changed in recent years. “We played a lot of games but we really weren’t focused on learning the proper skills to the games. Now there is a strong focus on teaching the students the skills that go into the game and for the students to understand why they need to use those skills in a specific task.”

Third-grade teacher Selena Sena is happy to be working with some of her former teachers, including music teacher Nate Strawbridge. Performing in chorus was one of her best memories.

“I remember thinking Mr. Strawbridge was the meanest and scariest teachers ever,” Sena said. “But I left with him being one of my favorite.”

New first-grade teacher Yilian Sanchez also enjoyed her time in chorus. She teaches first-grade and credits her time working as a classroom aide for inspiring her to become a teacher. Sena became one because of her teachers.

“The teachers I had along the way have inspired me,” said the 2017 USF graduate. “I want to be able to instill a love of learning.”

All three educators have deeper connections to Crestwood.

Pena’s mom was a longtime Crestwood teacher. Sanchez’s mother has worked as a bilingual paraprofessional there for 20 years. Sena’s new job allows her to team teach with her sister.

Sena said teaching has changed since she was a kid, but to a more student-centered approach.

“What I do remember is being taught completely different than now,” she said. “I had to memorize my multiplication facts before even knowing what multiplication was.”

Crestwood, located near Leto High School in western Hillsborough County, opening in 1968 in the middle of a cow pasture. It has expanded through the years, but it doesn’t seem bigger to these former students.

“Honestly,” said Pena, “every aspect looks smaller now than it did as a student.”

To learn more about Crestwood Elementary, visit

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