Christina Perez

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Salinas, CA. I, along with my siblings are first generation born in the United States. Our family, culture, and pride comes from Michoacán, Mexico, where growing up, we spent our winter vacations and learned what being Mexican is all about. Being Mexican American is a privilege and something I am very proud of.

How long have you been involved in education?

I have been involved in education all of my life. As a child, I always found myself volunteering and wanting to be involved in all educational activities. From helping my peers in class, to participating in extracurricular activities and being as involved as possible. Once I reached the high school level I began returning to my elementary schools and volunteering my time. During my college years I worked with after school tutoring programs and began my required volunteering hours in the classrooms for my bachelor and teaching credentials.

The most amazing gift as a Dual Immersion teacher is when families share with me that they traveled as far as a foreign country where they speak Spanish, or simply to a Mexican restaurant in town, where their child practiced and applied what they have learned. When my students take pride in being bilingual, I know everyone at our school has contributed in achieving that goal, and we all take great pride in that!

What was your biggest influence in becoming an educator?

Mrs. Howell. She was my first grade teacher. I have freckles, and I was teased and bullied on a daily basis growing up because of them. I would often cry because of it. Mrs. Howell took it upon herself to help me, and find a way to put a smile on my face. One day Mrs. Howell kept me in from recess and told me “Your freckles are really angel kisses, all the other students are jealous of your angel kisses. So, when someone says something mean to you, in your head, remind yourself that they are angel kisses and they are simply jealous. It’s our little secret”. She made a huge impact on my life; how I saw myself, my confidence, and my self-esteem. She opened my eyes and made me realize how much of an impact a teacher can have on a child for the rest of their lives. It was then that I realized, I too, wanted to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children as she did mine.

Teacher of the Month - Christina Perez

Have you always been interested in teaching first grade?

I have always been drawn towards the younger kids. However, my first year of teaching I found myself in a 5-6 dual immersion class, where I discovered that the upper grades are simply young kids in bigger bodies. Once I decided I was ready to move back to Salinas, a first grade position was where I found a new home. I just finished my 4th year of teaching first grade and I absolutely love it!

What about dual language education do you enjoy the most?

What I enjoy most about being part of the dual language family is that I am directly involved in watching students of all nationalities accept, learn, and become proud of becoming bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural. I have the privilege of sharing with my students my primary language and culture, and together we explore and learn about the different countries and cultures whom also speak Spanish.

How did you arrive at Lincoln Elementary School?

After my first year of teaching out in Hanford, CA, I decided it was time to return home and give back to my community by teaching in the same city I was born and raised in. I was very privileged that my district, Salinas City Elementary School District, had already taken on the challenge of providing Dual Immersion for our students at three of our schools at the time. One of them being Lincoln.

Teacher of the Month - Christina Perez

At the time, Lincoln had just reopened their doors two years prior to me getting there in 2010, as a school with two stands: Dual Immersion and Structured English Immersion. Thankfully, I had already been hired by the district, and now it was a matter of applying to specific schools. Once I learned about the three schools within the district that provided Dual Immersion, I knew Lincoln was where I wanted to be. This was because of the unique opportunity to be a part of a growing program, where I could help build, support, and flourish.

What has been your involvement with implementing Lincoln Elementary’s dual language program?

From the first day of joining the Dual Immersion family at Lincoln and Salinas City Elementary School District, I have been involved in implementing our 90/10 model within my classroom. On the school level, I have been an advocate in collaborative meetings with my Dual Immersion team and administrators, in helping plan, organize, and execute cultural events for our students. I also maintain communication with my colleagues on making sure we are implementing the Dual Immersion model at all times.

When a struggling student achieves their goals and feels extremely accomplished, when an unmotivated student finds their motivation, or when a previous student returns and tells you “thank you”. These are the moments that touch our hearts!

At the district level, I have been involved in our benchmark committees, where we reviewed, edited and made sure that our district assessments were aligned with the needs of our students. I am also an advocate in ensuring that our school has the appropriate resources necessary for our Dual Immersion teachers and students. On a personal level, I take the time to attend additional trainings and conferences in order to continue my education and stay informed of any changes or additional resources to help continue the success of our programs. A teacher, like our students, never stops learning.

How did you get involved with piloting the new language arts program in your district?

Most recently, this past school year, our district began to move forward in purchasing a new language arts curriculum that is common core aligned. We were given the option/opportunity to pilot two curriculums, and based on our feedback after piloting, our district would move forward purchasing the recommended program for the entire district. I instantly volunteered myself and my first grade team for this task. Being that we only provide the dual immersion program in four of our fourteen schools, I wanted to make sure we had representation and an impact in deciding which curriculum to purchase. One that would not only help and benefit our SEI strand, but also provide the components that are needed for our Dual Immersion Programs.

Understanding that every language is unique, special and important, and having the privilege to achieve biliteracy is a huge accomplishment.

What does grade level collaboration mean to you and how is it executed?

Grade level collaboration means working alongside and in conjunction with my grade level team. It means planning what we are teaching our students together and helping each other make adaptations for each of our classes, based on our student’s needs. It means taking the time to review and monitor the improvement of our students. It means helping each other achieve all of the requirements from the school and district level, staying informed with all the events going on at our school and making sure we are all involved and prepared. Supporting and knowing that we are always there to help each other is key.

What do you think makes your classroom stand out?

It is the students in my classroom that stand out. They bring the energy into our classroom. Without my students, the classroom is simply an empty room. My greatest goal every school year is to be able to make a connection with every student. By doing so, my classroom’s environment turns into a family, where my students understand that we are there to take care of, help, and motivate each other to succeed. l feel that is what makes my classroom stand out, that my students take over and make it their own. It is, after all, our second home.

Teacher of the Month - Christina Perez

How do you foster family engagement with your classroom and/or school?

Communication with families is essential! I use various methods of communication with my student’s families. First, I share my personal cell phone number with my student’s parents. By doing so, the parents are instantly connected to me and can easily call or text me if needed. I also communicate through paper flyers for parents who may not have access to technology.

In addition, as a class, and almost school wide, we have used the application and website “classdojo”. It is a website that helps with classroom management, incentives, and communication with parents. It monitors student’s behavior throughout the day by giving positive/negative points with sound effects, while instantly letting the parents know of the points given as well. It also has a message component where I send event reminders to the whole class, or I can have an individual conversation with any parent that is connected.

What does biliteracy mean to you?

Biliteracy to me means to have the ability to read and write in two languages. It also means to have the will, drive, and confidence to achieve biliteracy. Understanding that every language is unique, special and important, and having the privilege to achieve biliteracy is a huge accomplishment and honor.

How have you helped your students understand the value of biliteracy?

I talk to my students, I share with them my personal life experiences, and allow families and students to come in and share with our students their stories and experiences as well. We discuss real life situations where being biliterate is an extremely beneficial and essential privilege. I instill in them that we are so fortunate to be biliterate because not everyone has that opportunity. Being biliterate and bicultural is a beautiful thing. The most amazing gift as a Dual Immersion teacher, is when families share with me that they traveled somewhere as far as a foreign country where they speak Spanish or, simply to a Mexican restaurant in town, where their child practiced and applied what they have learned.

What advice would you give to future teachers?

My advice to future teachers is to never forget why they became a teacher in the first place. To keep dear in their heart that our students will always remember us. We have the power to make an impact in every student that crosses our path. As a teacher, it’s the little things that always mean the most, that make it all worthwhile, that give us the strength and motivation to continue working hard, for all the students that need and look up to us.

When a struggling student achieves their goals and feels extremely accomplished, when an unmotivated student finds their motivation, or when a previous student returns and tells you “thank you”. Those are the moments that touch our hearts! Patience, being open, flexibility, care, and always putting the students’ needs first is what makes a good teacher great!

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