Language skills. Cultural understanding. Bridge-building. Such tools are vital to effective 21st century communication.
"In today's world, students can communicate and reach out to anyone with the simple touch of a button," said Patricia Lopez, a kindergarten Dual Immersion teacher at Sunnyslope Elementary School. "The future requires our students to be prepared for global opportunities."
Ms. Lopez, who embodies learning without limits at Jurupa Unified, has been named the 2018 Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Teacher of the Year by the Association of Two-Way & Dual Language Education (ATDLE). She was honored in early February at the national nonprofit's annual conference in Long Beach.
"Being recognized by ATDLE for teaching in such a fantastic program could not be any more of a blessing and honor," Ms. Lopez said. "I am privileged and grateful to be able to help our students initiate the exciting journey to bilingualism, biliteracy, and the appreciation of different cultures."
In a letter congratulating Ms. Lopez on the award, ATDLE praised the instructor for her leadership in Dual Immersion education, her "powerful teaching repertoire," and the sharing of her expertise with parents and colleagues.
Asked about her teaching approach, Ms. Lopez emphasized instilling a love of learning in students; ensuring a fun and nurturing classroom; and providing a rigorous curriculum with clear expectations. Her instruction includes a range of techniques, from chants and songs to charts and visuals to the use of manipulatives during various hands-on math activities.
"This environment promotes growth, safe learning, celebration, and encouragement of one another," Ms. Lopez said, adding: "Because language is one of the most essential parts of our being, my goal is to make learning a second language come alive, with purpose and meaning."
Ms. Lopez shows a deep commitment to her students, according to Martha Gomez, Director of Language Services and Student Programs at JUSD. "She cares for each one of them and provides the opportunity for them to learn throughout the day," Ms. Gomez said. "She also believes in the many benefits of learning more than one language and supports our students, parents and other teachers in this endeavor."
Those benefits include more nimble communication, respect and appreciation for other cultures, and competitive advantages in a job market that rewards bilingualism and cultural competency. The Dual Immersion program also helps English learners gain confidence and personal empowerment as they learn a second language while honing skills in their native tongue.
Ms. Lopez, once an English learner herself, called teaching DI students "a dream come true," adding: "I have experienced firsthand the all too familiar issues that many English learners face on a day to day basis."
In congratulating Ms. Lopez as Teacher of the Year, ATDLE added: "Your focus on the achievement of Latino students in your program and to all students whose families chose this path towards biligualism and biliteracy has been unwavering. We often say that we would love to 'clone' master teachers such as you, so that 'all' students (nationwide) would have the benefit of learning from a great teacher!"