The White House and the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics will honor educators who have devoted their time and efforts to inspiring their students to excel and promoting the teaching profession by setting a strong example in the classroom. Ten educators who have focused on improving student outcomes and closing the academic achievement gap for their students – most of whom are Hispanic and English Language Learners – are traveling from around the country to Washington to be recognized at a special White House event.
“America’s future is inseparable from the Hispanic community’s future – and by strengthening the academic success of Latino students, we strengthen our nation’s long-term economic prosperity,” said U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “These leaders have shown an absolute dedication to helping their students succeed and are examples of the profound impact that educators can have not only in their classrooms, but in their communities.”
Hispanics will continue to drive the growth of America’s labor force in the coming decades, accounting for 60 percent of the Nation’s population growth between 2005 and 2050, and already approximately 1 of every 4 students in K-12 public education is Hispanic. If America is going to have the strongest, most competitive work force and lead the 21st century economy, and if we’re going to meet the President’s goal of having the highest percentage of high school graduates in the world by 2020, then we have to improve the educational outcomes of Hispanics. At the event, the educators will have an opportunity to share best practices, models, and teaching strategies for effectively engaging and educating students, in particular, Hispanic students.
Hispanics are both the largest and fastest-growing minority group in public education, but have the lowest education attainment levels of any group in the country. To meet this challenge, the Administration is working in partnership with communities across the country. The President’s Advisory Commission is critical to that effort, and is working to help strengthen the PK-12 pipeline to ensure all Latino students graduate from high school prepared for college and their careers – as well as have the resources they need to access and complete some form of postsecondary education. A recent White House report on the Administration’s agenda and the Hispanic community includes a detailed section on education, and can be found by clicking HERE.
The White House Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative to honor ordinary Americans doing great work in their communities. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.
Vanessa Lugo – Denver, CO
Vanessa Lugo is a Teach for America alumna who currently teaches Early Childhood Education at Cole Arts and Science Academy in Denver Public Schools. She was recently named team leader of the ECE, K and First grade team and will begin facilitating professional development for teachers around culturally responsive practices. She has spent the last two summers working as a staff member for Teach for America at their summer institute in Phoenix, supporting new teachers as well as working to develop the role of the Diversity and Inclusiveness facilitator.
Selina Marie Alonzo – Phoenix, AZ
Selina Alonzo represents an outstanding commitment to children and families in her community. As an English teacher at Maryvale High School, Ms. Alonzo demonstrates a love of learning and a passion for her profession. She was named her district’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, and was also honored in 2010 with the Esperanza Award given by Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. As a community member, Selina represents urban families by serving on the Board of Directors for The Neighborhood Center, through Neighborhood Ministries. As an expression of her faith, she is committed to working for justice by living, teaching, serving and fellowshipping in the same Phoenix community in which she was raised.
Octavio Alvarez – Los Angeles, CA
Octavio Alvarez has been teaching at Brawley Union High School for eight years. His duties include teaching traditional and bilingual mathematics classes. He attended the Mexican public education system and graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California with a major in Civil Engineering. Since his hire at Brawley Union High School his focus has been to help and assist the bilingual community of Brawley and to prepare his students to succeed after high school. As a 2012 California Association for Bilingual Education recognized teacher in mathematics, he has single handedly turned around the BUHS English Learner Mathematics Program and has significantly increased both California Standards Tests and California High School Exit Examination scores year after year for his students.
Jesus Arrizon – San Luis, AZ
Jesus Arrizon hails from a farm worker family of fourteen that emigrated from Mexico in 1976. Arrizon’s father worked in the lettuce fields for more than 30 years. One of his father’s main goals in life was to provide his family with the opportunity to attend college and fulfill the American dream. Arrizon received his associate’s degree in medical technology from Arizona Western College. He went on to complete an engineering degree at the University of Arizona. After working for 13 years in the mining industry, Arrizon decided to change careers by going into the education field. Arrizon completed a master’s degree in education from the University of Phoenix. Since that time, for the last 11 years, he has worked for the Gadsden Elementary School District 32 and Arizona Western College.
Raul Garcia – Boston, MA
Raul received his B.A. at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor where he studied Sociology and Latino/a Studies. Afterwards he studied at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education where he obtained his Ed.M. and Massachusetts license to teach high school social sciences. Through the support and mentorship of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Grant, which he received at U. of M., he remains committed to teaching in the urban public schools of Boston. Raul has taught Writing and Humanities at the Boston Arts Academy since the fall of 2001.
Ben Hernandez – Houston, TX
Ben Hernandez has served the students of Houston for more than 14 years. His instructional experience includes elementary PE, Kindergarten, and 5th grade. During his time as a 5th grade teacher he increased student performance on the state math assessment (TAKS) from 77% passing to 94% passing his first year. His work in 5th grade math contributed to his school, Lantrip Elementary, receiving a National Blue Ribbon award for dramatic growth in math achievement. He was elected by his colleagues as an elementary representative on the District Advisory Committee. His student performance allowed him to participate as a Gates Recruitment Fellow. For the last two years he has worked with district leadership to develop a new teacher appraisal that includes student performance. And this Spring he was selected as part of the inaugural Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Teacher Advisory Committee. During the 2011-2012 school year Ben moved out of the classroom and into Professional Support and Development, where he works to support and develop teacher instruction.
Guadalupe Meza – Phoenix, AZ
Guadalupe Meza is a Spanish Educator at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Ms. Meza has dedicated her instructional career to motivate her students (Native and non-native speakers) to fight for their dreams and not let anybody, or obstacle, interfere with their goal of acquiring a higher education. In her seven years of teaching, she has been able to help impact the lives of many students, and help them find scholarships and motivate non-native Spanish speakers to keep learning Spanish. Ms. Meza’s teaching philosophy impacts her students more, because of her unique non-traditional, yet knowledge-filled, approach to learning.
Armando Orduña – Houston, TX
Armando Orduña has dedicated the last fifteen years to the education of the students of Houston, Texas. A native Houstonian, he spent the first seven years of his career extending outreach programs through the education department of The Children’s Museum of Houston. In the last eight years he has strived to close the achievement gap in inner city, Title I classrooms through Spanish language and science instruction. Currently he trains high school students for careers in Education through the city’s only teacher-preparation magnet program.
Sylvia Padilla – Long Beach, CA
Sylvia Padilla has been a bilingual teacher for the past 20 years. She currently teaches fourth grade in the two-way bilingual immersion program at Patrick Henry K-8 School in the Long Beach Unified School District. She has been awarded Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year and California Association of Bilingual Education Teacher of the Year for collaborating at the school, district and state level to improve instruction, implementation and assessment of state standards in English and Spanish. Sra. Padilla earned her bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from California State University, Long Beach.
Silvia Rodriguez Macdonald
As a first generation Cuban-Spaniard-American, a teacher, and a leader, Macdonald has relied on her personal experiences to provide opportunities for the success and advocacy of the Hispanic children and English Language Learners of today. Her daily goal is to make a difference in the lives of the children she teaches and the community by affecting a positive change. Through her work, she strives to influence the teachers and leadership in her school system and community to be able to provide the best education and resources available for students, our future leaders.