As the teaching profession is ever changing, the need for innovative teachers becomes ever more present. That’s why for our Dual Language June Teacher of the Month, we honor Julissa Moreno, who has been involved in education for 26 years.
I have known I had wanted to be a teacher since I was a small child; I would sit with my nieces and nephews and play school. —Julissa Moreno
Julissa Moreno was working on her master’s degree when she first heard about dual immersion programs. She loved how they held so much promise for our future generations and how they would lift a minority language and make it equal. She was enamored with the idea of what this program could do to benefit our society.
I thought: How wonderful for children of all races to grow up together and learn languages from each other! It does not come without its challenges, but I have seen the wonderful benefits of this program in the students I have served and in my own children that went through this program.
After her district decided to implement it, she interviewed for the position and has been teaching at Voorhies Elementary School in Bakersfield, CA since 1997. Her favorite part of being a teacher are the students. She loves being part of this community and the families she has served for generations.
She has been an active participant of the dual language community, presenting at CABE in 2005, and discussing the importance of children publishing their own writing.
I try to open their eyes to the wonderful world that surrounds us—through art and writing. By following their own curiosity, finding out what they are curious about, and giving them the tools to guide their own learning by showing them their own voice in this world and how to use that voice in two languages to communicate effectively.
Ms. Moreno helps students understand the value of biliteracy by teaching her students that knowing two languages is like having a super power, and how this super power allows their brains to be challenged. She discusses how this resonates with them, as some of her students have been able to recapture the language of their grandparents. She sees how valuable their knowledge of language is in their futures, as some of her students have gone on to major in Spanish and travel abroad, and some have even used their bilingual skills in their jobs in their community.
Ms. Lori Pesante, a parent of one Ms. Moreno’s students said:
“It is because of Julissa that, like the dormant grapevines that surround the Voorhies area in winter, this 2019 CABE Seal of Excellence award-winning program survived California’s ‘English Only’ Prop 227 and No Child Left Behind days, and maintained its integrity and ability to produce successful biliterate graduates. When Spanish-language materials were scarce, Julissa advocated fiercely for funding and regularly created her own. Julissa has never just cared about ensuring her own students’ success, but is a teacher-leader, serving as departmental and grade-level lead for years, and every year mentoring new teachers. When news crews feature the Voorhies DI program, there is a reason they are always invited to observe Julissa.”
Ms. Moreno hopes her students remember her as someone that cares for them first and foremost, that she will always be their biggest fan, and that they can accomplish anything with hard work and perseverance.
Biliteracy is being able to communicate orally and in writing in two languages which open doors and increased opportunities—having a voice in two languages. —Julissa Moreno