Meet the amazing Daniela, a fourth-grade Spanish and English teacher in Grapevine, a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Daniela’s past life as a journalist shapes her teaching, as does her experience as an English Language Learner.
And I think I’ve got a new motto: GOYA/KOD!
Type of School:
Title 1 Elementary School
Years taught: 3
Number of students this year: 35
You left a position with a prestigious news agency to become a teacher. What motivated your choice, and what have you realized about its impact?
I had a great journalism professor in college whose passion for the profession was so palpable I was ready to take on the world when I graduated. After college, I got to work with and learn from some of the most talented journalists I’ve ever encountered. They had that passion, too. It took me a while to admit to myself that while I liked what I was doing and have a huge respect for the work, I didn’t feel the same way they did about journalism. I wanted to find my passion and that led me to bilingual education. In the years since, I’ve realized I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
You teach a bilingual Spanish class. What are your students’ backgrounds? Can you explain what bilingual education means, and give us a snapshot of your class?
My students are mostly either from Mexico, or first-generation Americans with Spanish-speaking parents. We follow a dual language enrichment model at my school. This means my fourth-grade students receive half of their instruction in Spanish and half in English. Our goal is to educate bilingual and biliterate 21st-century learners.
Your family is from Monterrey, Mexico and you grew up speaking Spanish. How does your background inform your teaching?
I think my background helps me understand my students because I lived the same thing they are going through. I know how exciting, difficult, exhausting, but ultimately rewarding the process of learning a new language can be. I always use that to guide my teaching. Perhaps more importantly, I know what it’s like to feel like you’re between two cultures. I use all of this to create relationships with my students and guide them in taking the best from both of the worlds they live in.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
Interacting with my students. Their enthusiasm and dreams fill me with hope for the future. Their calls for help remind me how important it is to have someone who believes in you. Last year, a student said to me, “Ms. Flores, I’m a girl with so many dreams. I want to be a lawyer, a chef, a teacher, a vet…” My job forces me to see the world very realistically, but my students allow me to see its endless possibilities.
If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be?
I would remove the extra pressures that take away attention from my students and their learning. The students are the reason I got into education.
What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?
To quote “Bad Teacher”: “Shorter hours, summers off, no accountability.” Not only are those ideas false (!), they would not be the reasons anyone who really believes in education would become a teacher.
What teacher made the most impact on you and why? What would you tell him/her now?
My main journalism professor, Dr. Robert Cole. Even though I did not stay in the world of journalism, he taught me you should be passionate about what you get up to do every morning. Seeing his love for journalism led me to find my love for teaching. I was nervous he would be disappointed in me for leaving journalism, so I didn’t tell him. Now I realize he would be happy I found my calling. Today, I want to tell him I’m still following GOYA/KOD*, just in the world of education. Thank you for showing me what loving what you do looks like, Dr. Cole.
*Get off your ass and knock on doors!
What advice do you have for aspiring or beginning teachers?
Surround yourself in greatness. Find the best teachers at your school, in your district, on Twitter, anywhere, and learn everything you can from them. Also, don’t forget about yourself. When a former journalism colleague who had been a teacher gave me that advice, I had no idea what he meant. But you’ll figure it out very quickly!