Carbondale teacher recognized for bilingual work with children | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale teacher recognized for bilingual work with children

Staff report

Carbondale Middle School English as a Second Language teacher Mary Hernandez, back left, with some of her students.

Carbondale Middle School's Mary Hernandez was recently awarded the English as a Second Language Teacher of the Year by the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education.

According to a Roaring Fork Schools statement, the award recognizes leaders, outstanding teachers and advocates for bilingualism, biculturalism and biliteracy, who play active and useful roles in their communities and schools.

Recipients also have a "proven ability to inspire emerging bilingual students of various backgrounds to excel.

"This award was made for Mary," said Amy Fairbanks, director of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education for the district, who nominated Hernandez for the award.

Hernandez has been with the district and at CMS for 10 years. She grew up in Denver and was attracted to teaching at an early age.

While preparing for her secondary English teacher licensing, she was inspired to study Spanish and Latin American culture along with wider interracial, social and cultural issues, according to the district statement.

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CMS Principal Jennifer Lamont wrote a letter of recommendation for Hernandez, saying, "She always keeps the students' best interests in mind and approaches teachers with openness and flexibility. … We are blessed to have her on our team.

"Mary is a phenomenal teacher. Her technique and style are a perfect match for emerging bilingual students, and she gives teaching her whole heart."

Fairbanks noted in her nomination that, three years ago, Hernandez created English language development units particularly geared toward newcomers, which were then adopted districtwide and served as a platform to collaborate with other schools for future units.

Fairbanks describes Hernandez as being a generous educator who always is willing to share information and resources.

"Mary's a leader: she is at the forefront of using research-based methods. It shows with the growth in language development that her students have gained," Fairbanks said.

"I think that collaboration is really the lifeblood of the teaching profession," Hernandez said.

Hernandez points back to her own struggles in learning a second language and navigating a foreign culture as shaping her educational perspective and empathetic approach to her students.

"I love teaching and working with all students, but my passion lies in working with newcomer emerging bilingual learners. They capture my adoration and highest respect as they tackle the challenges of acquiring a new language, culture, and academic content," Hernandez said.

Hernandez will be honored along with others who have contributed to the education of Colorado's Emerging Bilingual Students at the CABE 2017 Awards Gala in Denver on Sept. 20.

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