Mr. Jose Alonso Diaz

In the summer editions of Teacher of the Month, we will now be implementing a panel system where Dual Language teachers nominate other Dual Language teachers, so that the hard work of teachers is identified by those who understand the difficulties teachers face every day. Our current teacher of the month panel is compromised by Mishelle Jurado of New Mexico, Angela Palmieri of the Los Angeles area, Marylou Escobar of the Los Angeles area, and Clara Galindo of Whittier. These teachers have selected the past 3, and remaining teachers of the month for the rest of 2018. In the next months, we will implement an additional aspect of the teacher of the month series. Please stay tuned for these updates! To apply for the Dual Language Teacher of the Month panel, please send applications to!

For the July Dual Language Teacher of the Month, our panel selected Mr. Jose Alonso Diaz of Lutacaga Elementary School in Othello, Washington. Mr. Diaz is exemplary of what all Dual Language Teachers strive to be. We came to learn of Mr. Jose Alonso from the principal of his school, Ms. Jennifer Perez. She told us that,

“Jose has been a dual language teacher in my school for the last 11 years. Mr. Alonso builds strong relationships with his students by sharing his personal story, encouraging them, and holds them accountable for using the target language. At all times Mr. Alonso puts the needs of his students first. He puts in countless hours outside of his contracted time to support science and other school events. Being a dual language teacher is not easy, but he makes it look that way!

Mr. Alonso graduated from Central Washington University in 2007. He has worked to achieve his master’s degree and his national board certification. He most recently completed his 11th year teaching 5th grade at Lutacaga Elementary, 10 of those years as the Spanish 5th grade teacher for their dual language program.

Mr. Alonso was inspired to become a dual language teacher at a young age. His family moved to the US in 1998 when he was 14 years old. Two weeks after moving to Washington State he enrolled at Othello High School as a 9th grader. He was placed in a shelter instruction where a translator would move along with a small group of students who needed the additional help in Spanish. Along with Mrs. Villarreal, the educational assistant and translator, he received instruction from Mrs. Pruneda for ESL. Since the beginning, Mrs. Pruneda and Mrs. Villarreal were an inspiration to Jose, and always pushed him to succeed. They were caring and passionate about their job.

From then on, Mr. Alonso knew he wanted to work somewhere to help students like himself and be the same inspiration and role model as Mrs. Pruneda and Mrs. Villarreal were for him. During high school, Jose worked as a high school helper and rotated through the different elementary programs during his senior year. One of the schools that he liked the most was a kindergarten class at Lutacaga Elementary, the same school he has been teaching at for 11 years. He was so impressed with the hard work from the teachers and the positive atmosphere among the staff that he knew he wanted to go return to be part of that culture.

As Mr. Alonso completed his education program, he began subbing for the Othello School District. After a couple of months, he was invited to do a long-term substitute teaching position and end the school year in a second-grade class. As the year wrapped up, several positions opened for the following school year. He applied for several grade levels, but the school was also transitioning to a new administrator. During the interview the current administration told him that he was mainly being considered for the 5th grade position, which would transition to a Spanish position as the dual language program expanded.


I was hesitant to work with the older students but agreed. After my first year, I loved working with that age group and have been in the same position ever since.


Continue reading to find out more about Jose’s inspiring story…

My favorite part of being a teacher is that not one day is the same. There is always something new, whether it is the students’ behavior, new programs, expectations or anything that challenges me and motivates me to do my best.

Mr. Alonso has been very involved in supporting STEAM education in the elementary school. He has provided training and support to teachers so others can also be leaders. He has also been a driving force in creating the annual science fair in the school. He participated in a research project conducted by the Washington State University on STEM education. He has worked with this group for two years now by sharing his involvement and accomplishments with science and STEAM at the school and district level.

Most recently, he and a group of teachers presented at the Washington Association of Bilingual Educators annual conference on bilingual partnerships. They presented on the importance of working together to develop and maintain a successful bilingual program. They also shared ideas on how to encourage partnerships and participation among the students. They are planning on presenting in the coming year as well.

Mr. Alonso has been part of the Washington State Science Fellows for the Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction. As part of this work, fellows (science teachers) from all over the state meet 4 times a year to plan, for professional development and to network with other fellow educators to improve science and STEM education.

For the science STEAM research, it was very beneficial for me to sit down with experts on the field and reflect on my instruction and what I have done around science. This has helped me to be creative and take on new tasks to help student achievement.

By working with the group to present at WABE, he was able to participate in a school group that they called “The Founders”. This is a group of teachers who have been at the school since the launch of the dual language program. During the year, they were able to present to the staff on ideas and strategies to help the students succeed. They also provide PD to help new teachers to better understand the program. Mr. Alonso has also implemented these strategies in his own classroom.

Mr. Alonso’s classroom stands out because it is a safe environment where students know that making mistakes is ok and that they are going to use those mistakes to learn and improve.

My classroom is very colorful and engaging. I always try to show my enthusiasm through the content that I teach, if students see that I am interested and excited to learn, so will they. Goal setting is very important, we set goals for improvement across all content areas. We keep track of those goals.

He also implemented more growth mindset lessons last year along with AVID strategies for success. Since the beginning of the year, he was able to make connections with his students, attending their afterschool functions if he was invited or able to attend. These types of strategies are vital for all students, but especially those who are ESL and Newcomer students. Mr. Alonso learned the value of this from his own studies, but the personal connections between students and teachers allows a dynamic sense of trust to be built which fosters a sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn.

Continue reading to find out more about Jose’s inspiring story…

Mr. Alonso also makes a point to maintain constant communication with the families to keep track of his students’ progress, or just sharing the students’ success. He used Class Dojo, regular phone calls, emails and personal communication to keep these connections and motivation going even off school grounds.

Mr. Alonso is focused on continuing to grow as an educator and is a great role model for his students. It is with great pride and respect that I nominate one of the best teachers I know, Mr. Jose Alonso. – Jennifer Perez, Principal of Lutacaga Elementary School.

When asked what three words Mr. Alonso would use to describe his classroom, he said:

Empower– I always try to use my leadership skills to empower my students and fellow educators in and out of my school.

Determination– and perseverance. If I start something I am going to go all the way and do the best I can to achieve my goal and overcome the obstacles in my way.

Passion– I like what I do and I do it with passion to help others.

When asked how he’d describe his students, he said:

Knowledgeable– My students just like any other students are very smart but sometimes do not know it or do not believe it. My job is to help them understand their value!

Curious– I can say that by creating and teaching engaging lessons, my students tend to be very curious and want to learn more.

Perseverant-My students know that I will always guide them and help them succeed and sometimes that takes hard work and they must persevere, but it will be worth it.

Biliteracy means to be able to be biliterate in more than one language. Being able to read, write and speak but also using both languages in conjunction to help one another. Our job is to help the students make the bridge and use both languages to succeed. Sometimes they are stronger in one language than the other, but both languages complement each other. The students can pull information in Spanish to supplement their thoughts in English and vice versa.

Jose helps his students to understand the value of biliteracy by sharing his story and that of many other people in his community. He uses his struggle of when he came to the US and had to adjust to a whole new culture to motivate his students. By constantly relating the content to real life experiences and reminding them that they are worth so much, especially if they know more than one language which some of our students do. He utilizes literature from famous authors, traditions and other successful people to illustrate the value of biliteracy and inspire his students to strive for that success.

Mr. Alonso believes that his students are the future, and the application of the knowledge and work ethic they are learning will carry on and allow them to become the new leaders of our country. He knows his students will go on to make a difference with their beliefs and the knowledge they gained.

I hope to be a role model, but at least be a reminder of someone who believes they can do what they set their mind to. I hope to be someone who they trust to know what they will have to encounter along the way to reach their success. I want them to know that I care for every one of them and that they will accomplish great things!

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