Juanita Soliz, a bilingual kindergarten teacher at The Rice School, knows the impact that professional development and support can have on the lives of her students. On the first day of school, she welcomed an excited group of 24 kindergarteners, all of whom had either some reading ability or knowledge of letter sounds—except for one child named Oscar. “Before my class, Oscar had never been in school before,” explained Soliz. “He didn’t even know how to hold a pencil. All he knew was that that his name was Oscar.”
Using the Neuhaus Education Center’s Esperanza materials, which are designed especially for bilingual teachers, Soliz was able to customize the learning experience for Oscar to help him catch up to his classmates. “I teach at a high level,” noted Soliz, who was named HISD’s Bilingual Teacher of the Year for 2012, “but I don’t leave anyone behind.” She also reinforced the learning taking place in the classroom by sharing materials with parents and teaching them how to use them at home with their children.
“Oscar’s portfolios were once all wavy lines,” said Soliz. “These days, he’s reading and writing in both English and Spanish.”
HISD serves more than 60,000 students with limited proficiency in English.