The January teacher of the month closes out a list of amazing teachers whose peers, administrators, and parents recognized as amazing dual language educators.
Her teaching career began while in graduate school as a TA in the Spanish and Portuguese department at the University of New Mexico, where she discovered that she had a love for interacting with the students. During this time, she worked hard to create activities for the classes she taught. She looked forward to the interactions with the students, especially the one-on-one meetings where she helped students learn how to navigate the university system. As this work continued, she felt herself drawn to the field of education.
Currently, she is a teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School (AHAHS)in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her career there began nine years ago after becoming frustrated with a tech support position at a major company. She recalled the satisfaction she received while working with students at UNM and took a risk by contacting the principal at AHAHS. The principal called her that same day and with her guidance, two weeks later, she was a licensed high school teacher serving 150 students.
When asked what her favorite part about being a teacher was, she responded:
“My favorite part about being a teacher is seeing my students succeed. I have had the great fortune to build great relationships with my students and to have them sharing their accomplishments with me. I love knowing that the seeds we plant continue to grow long after they have left our garden.”
Ms. Cano has attended professional conferences and participated in various professional development opportunities. Her latest project in the district centers on the topic of translanguaging. Her participation in the project has had a tremendous impact on the classroom practices. This project has influenced how she teaches, evaluates, and uses language in the classroom. This is what she shared about the project: “I have gained a framework that structures the things that were happening organically in my classroom from day one many years ago; looking at whole language while still teaching in the target language and giving students a lens to encapsulate their own language skills and needs. I have added some metacognitive activities more centered on whole language. I have had students self-assess in the four domains of language for all of their languages versus just the target language. I am finally creating the language spaces I have always envisioned. The research and participation in this translanguaging project have really given me the structure to put together many elements and pedagogies I have always tried to integrate into my teaching practice.”
Her classroom stands out as an exemplary class because it is truly student-led. She includes her students in most of the decision-making process. They actively participate in addressing standards and often make recommendations on how to improve activities. Her major objective is for students to become agents of their own education as they continue their educational journey.
Ms. Cano, who describes herself as informed, thoughtful, and open, encourages her students whom she describes as brilliant, inspiring, and ever growing to become involved in activities outside of the walls of the classroom. Where she is able, she opens doors to opportunities that foster student leadership and civic involvement. An example of this is a student led organization called MEChA. This organization promotes student leadership and community service. The group at AHAHS currently has over 150 members with student officers at the helm. These students organize community event and community service opportunities. A group of these students led one of the sessions at the 2019 Student Leadership Institute at La Cosecha conference. This group also has worked with local organizations and has participated in many community events, marches, and parades.
At the high school level, these students, who are ready to venture out on their own, understand the value of biliteracy. These students have had many conversations on the topic and they know that biliteracy is the ability to express themselves both orally and through the written word in the language, or a mix of languages, they choose, while still possessing the skills to do it in one register of a single language when needed.
Many classroom discussions center on biliteracy. She has shared her personal experience in becoming biliterate, including the societal gains, such as differential pay or specific job opportunities. As they go out on their own with the knowledge they have, Ms. Cano trusts that each student will discover the value of being bilingual and biliterate in different aspects of their lives.
At the high school level, she feels fortunate to see the fruits of all the labor that parents, previous teachers, administrators, and counselors who worked with the students have been reaped. Each day, strong, thoughtful, and socially conscious young adults fill the seats in her classroom. She knows that these students will become active members of their community and beyond. They will arm themselves with knowledge and will advocate for changes that are inclusive for all members of their community. Hope fills her being as she sees the leaders who have walked the hallways of AHAHS. She knows that they will shape the next generation and create communities that embrace diversity and equity.
To view more Dual Language Teachers of the Month, visit the Teachers' Lounge!