July Dual Language Teacher of the Month: Vanessa Moreno!
The Dual Language Teacher of the Month Award is always awarded to qualified individuals who go above and beyond for the success of their students. Vanessa Moreno of Lagos Elementary in Manor ISD in Manor, Texas, is no exception to this, and has been a classroom teacher for 20 years, which she describes as an amazing journey with many more years to come. Ms. Moreno’s degree is in Public Relations, so upon graduation, she did not intend to be a teacher.
Then one fateful day changed my destiny. My biggest influence is whatever higher power you believe in, because that changed the road I traveled.
Ms. Moreno and her husband moved to Austin in search of greater opportunities for her family. Austin is a city that celebrates culture, kindness, and diversity. This is the exact environment she wanted for her children. She says that sayings like “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Austin Bilingual” are very sincere. She really prioritizes her connections with both students and their parents.
The most important aspect of teaching is having these relationships in place, and forming that sincere appreciation for their kids. This school year I looped up with my class, and we had just the most amazing communication and understanding for each other. The way to create positive relationships with classroom parents is to be understanding. Every situation is not black and white, it’s being compassionate for all the gray areas that form these bonds.
Ms. Moreno also works beyond the classroom, and founded The Heritage Team Extraordinaire, a Facebook group that creates and shares online resources and learning sessions to help facilitate culturally diverse classrooms. This year she presented at the National Best Practices Conference with Victoria Gillick and at El Pregonero, the bilingual education conference for California State University at Dominguez Hills, with Dr. Kim Kennedy.
When I moved to Austin is when I realized that every moment counts. Every day there is an opportunity to celebrate and make life fun and memorable. So everyday lessons would turn out extension activities and the chance for parent involvement. It was so wonderful to see our classroom become a hub for learning. One example, we read the Gingerbread Man one day during our morning meeting. One child suggested we make gingerbread men, and it went from there. That Friday, I had parents in my classroom baking and decorating actual gingerbread men with my students.
Another example, is that her classroom was having a discussion about Patrick Mahomes, and how he was recently injured while being new to the NFL, but with planning, strategy and teamwork, the Chiefs were still in the Superbowl. This conversation turned into a classroom Superbowl party where they not only snacked, but made graphs using football statistics and predictions about the game.
Biliteracy goes beyond the definition of knowing how to listen, speak, read and write in two languages. Biliteracy is celebrating two cultures, it is living in two worlds and appreciating both, while inviting those around you to join you in celebrating.
Ms. Moreno accomplishes this by example. She is always sure to observe special days, and hosts classroom events to practice traditions. And on the most celebrated days, she invites other classrooms to participate with them. The most recent example of this was their celebration of Selena Day, where her students wrote biographies about Selena, and hosted a dance party. It was a total success that many teachers applauded and the students were able to learn about Tejano music and perseverance.
Ms Moreno often thinks about the impact her students will leave on the world, because being among them, she feels their work ethic and how this is the key factor to success. Also, in Austin, there are many job opportunities, especially now that even more tech companies are relocating to the Austin area. Her students often have conversations about Elon Musk and his rockets to Mars.
I heard this saying once, and it resonates with me. Students may not remember what you taught them or any of the everyday occurrence in your classroom, but they will remember how you made them feel. So I make sure that each one of my kids knows that they can do anything.