Dual Language September Teacher of the Month: Keren Wright!
Our Dual Language September Teacher of the Month is Ms. Keren Wright, a dual language language arts teacher at Norris Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska! Ms. Wright has been teaching for fifteen years, and after numerous colleagues of hers nominated her for this award, we knew it was time to bring her to your attention.
“Ms. Keren Wright is an amazing educator, she creates a joyful and energetic classroom experience for her students. You can always find her smiling and laughing with her students while providing rigorous and engaging lessons. Ms. Wright uses the power of her positive energy to connect with all students, there is no student she cannot teach or cannot create a relationship with. She is a champion educator.”
Ms. Wright taught ESL in the district for eleven years. Four years ago, she was ready for a change and chose to go into Dual Language at Norris Middle School. She was inspired to be a teacher as she comes from a family with 14 teachers! She continues teaching for the “lightbulb moment” when kids “get” a concept.
“When students start taking ownership of their own learning and start helping others understand a concept. I love walking up to students talking… and realizing they’re doing my job!”
During our interview, Ms. Wright referenced how when she was in college they taught to not teach from the book, but to “be the book”. This inspired her to look for what excites her in the curriculum and transmit that to her students.
“Maybe it’s a story, maybe it’s a conundrum that I feel connects to the lives of my students. Maybe it’s an object in the text I can show them that they have never seen before and will bring a whole new level of awareness to them. It usually takes students about two weeks to get used to me getting excited and stomping, jumping, or raising my voice in excitement to make a point!”
She encourages her students to bring their observations into classroom discussions. She sees how books jump to life when students start being able to make connections with them to their own lives. Sometimes they do experiments to see if students’ ideas are correct. One take away from this was that diet coke does not leave sticky residue, she learned from experience! She’s had students bring in artifacts that remind them of what they’re studying. She tries get them to make connections to the outside world. Oftentimes they will meet her at the door the next day and tell her what they discovered when they left school after their discussion.
She helps them to understand the importance of biliteracy by showing them how Spanish helps them quickly grasp words with Latin roots. She puts up posters of famous people that are also bilingual. She creates an understanding of the culture of their varied Latin countries to help them see events in world history differently than monocultural people might see them. She always praises them when they step up, out of their own volition, to help translate for a parent or student new to our school.
Keren stands out because she truly believes that her students have the opportunity to completely change the world. Even her students that would rather never put pen to paper or pick up another book in their life; jump up at the chance to help others. They stand up for what is right. She helps her students see themselves as the honorable leaders 10-20 years from now that she knows they will be. Teachers like Keren are creating the leaders of the world we will live in, and we are forever grateful to people like her who are molding our youth.
“I hope to inspire hope. I hope I challenge them to always give their best. I hope they learn how to reason for themselves. I hope they realize that they are the reason some of us get up in the morning. To me, biliteracy means the knowledge of two languages and the understanding of two cultures to a level that opens your eyes to similarities between other cultures, generating ways to connect with people from any other culture.”