Adam Opiela Endowment for the Urban Teachers Program Established in the College of Education at UT Austin

A group of people around a sapling planted near the George I. Sánchez building.
The College of Education and Opiela family members planted a chinkapin oak tree in honor of Adam’s memory near the George I. Sánchez building.

We are proud to announce the establishment of an endowment in the name of Adam Opiela, a student teacher in the Social Studies division of UT’s Urban Teachers program. Adam, who passed away unexpectedly from colon cancer in the summer of 2021 only months after earning his Master’s degree in Education, was a lifelong lover of learning, especially about history and cultural studies.

Adam and Joe Opiela

After graduating from Trinity College (CT) in 2013 with a BA in History, Adam moved to Austin from his Medfield, MA hometown in 2015 to help open a new branch office of a Boston-based tech startup. In 2019, he decided to change the course of his life by enrolling in the Urban Teachers program to prepare to share his love of learning about and teaching history. He student taught at Manor High School, Crockett High School, and O. Henry Middle School.  In addition to classroom teaching and as a sports enthusiast, Adam was looking forward also to one day becoming a student coach. In his short time as a UT student, he became a proud fan of its football and basketball teams.

The instructors who worked with Adam during his coursework agreed he would have been an exceptional teacher. Cinthia Salinas, the professor who taught Adam’s cohort, said“Adam was an integral part of how his cohort centered social justice and the students and communities they were ready to serve. Adam was brilliant-knowing history and geography and economics like a teacher-scholar should – but what he put forth first was an ambition to learn more and to learn with others. He would have been the calm in the classroom, the provoker of creative ideas, and the teacher that every student wanted to just sit and talk with during lunch or after school.”

It was magical to see him walk around the room and share his knowledge or lend an ear to students and see the “lightbulb” of understanding ignite as he walked away to support another student. I know, without a doubt, that he was going to be an outstanding teacher that any school would be lucky to have. He truly embodied the elements of being an impactful teacher –humility, kindness, dedication and love.

Michael Joseph, associate instructor in Curriculum and Instruction at UT Austin

Adam was looking forward to beginning his career with the noble goal of helping young people to engage with history and civics in order to empower them to be active citizens and engaged learners. Joe Opiela, Adam’s father, said, “We want this endowment to inspire and support students in the Urban Teachers program as they prepare for their own teaching careers. In this way, Adam can continue to have some impact on the next generation of learners.” In another gesture of remembrance, the Opiela family also planted a Memorial Tree in Adam’s name, a Chinkapin oak, in front of the Sanchez Building.

The endowment in Adam’s name will go towards helping the University of Texas Urban Teachers program pursue its mission to provide future teachers with skills to facilitate greater educational and social justice in urban schools and communities, and honor Adam’s passion for learning and teaching history. Funds distributed from this endowment will be used to support excellence and innovation within the program. The first recipient of the Adam Opiela Memorial Endowment in Education is fellow Urban Teachers student and close colleague, Scott Cook.

About the University of Texas Urban Teachers Program

The Urban Teachers teacher preparation program equips students to become the kind of secondary (middle or high school) teachers who contribute, along with their students, to achieving greater educational and social justice in urban schools, communities, and beyond. Participants gain research-based and practical knowledge of teaching through extensive coursework and hands-on experience in