Maricela & Ricardo Rincón
When Maricela first started school in Chicago she was sent to the back of the room because she didn’t speak English. Even though she was born the United States, Maricela felt isolated and rejected because she spoke mostly Sp...
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When Maricela first started school in Chicago she was sent to the back of the room because she didn’t speak English. Even though she was born the United States, Maricela felt isolated and rejected because she spoke mostly Spanish.
Ricardo had a similar experience. He immigrated to the United States from his native Mexico and despite the fact that he loved learning math, he felt like he didn’t belong in school.
Fortunately, they each found dedicated teachers who took the time to encourage and inspire them. Today, they have become that special teacher to those students who may be struggling while learning English.
Ricardo and Maricela, now husband and wife, are both elementary school teachers in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and they ensure that every child in their classroom feels included and part of a welcoming learning community.
“I make sure that I value language and I value culture in my students, so that they don’t ever have to go through or feel what I felt”, explains Maricela who teaches third grade.
Ricardo also uses his personal experience and language skills to engage his fifth grade students.
“When I’m teaching in a new classroom where students speak two languages and I know one of the languages, I let them know that they have plenty to offer. They may have reading skills already developed or mathematical skills. We just have to access those skills and then help them to make the transition from their first language to their second one”.
Not only do Ricardo and Maricela make a difference on a daily basis in the lives of their students in Las Cruces, but they also volunteer their time to travel across the nation and train other educators so that they can support and motivate students who are English Language Learners.
Through professional development workshops and classroom modeling facilitated through NEA’s Quality School Programs and Resources (QSPR) department and utilized by NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, the Rincon’s share instructional practices critical for second language learners, highlighting teaching strategies and research driven applications.
Ricardo, because of his love of math and his innovative use of technology in the classroom, was invited to Washington DC earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in a national forum which examined challenges faced by English Language Learners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The ideas presented at that conference inspired them to add even more work to their busy schedules. So as they continue to serve as active members of their local school community, classroom teachers, and volunteer trainers, the Rincon’s are planning a series of forums to encourage minority students to embrace the learning of math and science.“As an educator I am trained to make math fun. The idea that math is difficult, challenging, boring, long or tedious, all that is being erased in the minds of my students. So that is part of the job; making sure that students are involved, engaged and they understand math. The other part is talking to the community leaders, see what we can do to organize our community to be more involved in these fields of learning”, explains Ricardo.
For Maricela, the travel, the long hours, leading workshops, going the extra mile, is simply part of her role as an educator.
“One of the reasons why I do what I do, why I have absolutely no problem going to other schools and sharing my experience and my learning is because it’s a part my goal to make a greater difference. I know that in the classroom I make a huge difference, but when you are sharing nationwide you feel like you’re making a contribution in a greater scale”, she concludes.
Words of Encouragement
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