Ms. Yliana Moyeda is one of HISD’s finalists for the 2018 HAABE Bilingual and ESL Teacher of the Year award.
“Class, class…” She calls for attention while walking in the room.
“Yes, yes!” Students respond in unison.
“Take your writing journal out. I will give each a picture and you will come up with adjectives that describe the image. Who can tell me what an adjective is?”
Hands go up in the air. Cesarito, a second-grader at Ms. Moyeda’s class, answers: “it’s a describing word,” he says shyly in a heavy accent.
“What do you think, class?” The teacher asks.
A show of thumbs up validates the answer. The children then concentrate looking at their picture to complete the assignment.
Ever since Yliana Moyeda started her studies at Sam Houston State University, she was determined to be knowledgeable on strategies and methods that would help newcomers become proficient in English. “I became aware of the rising numbers of misdiagnosed ELLs getting placed in special education because of teachers who don’t know the needs of ESL students,” she recalls.
Moreover, she realized early in life —being the daughter and the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants— the difficulties of ESL learners in society. “This was part of my motivation to become a teacher.”
After four years in the field, Ms. Moyeda makes sure that her second graders at Sanchez Elementary know that “being bilingual is something to be celebrated.” Even though her first language is English, she understands that learning it is a process that takes time. “They need to know that their peers and teacher will be there to help them along the way.” And as a reward for that continuous support, her school named her the ESL Teacher of The Year.
For Moyeda, the biggest impact on students that have been in the U.S. for a short time is creating a judgment-free and welcoming classroom. “If a student feels comfortable in their environment and has the learning tools needed to succeed, they are more likely to acquire those target language and comprehension skills effectively.”
One of her students, who was new to Sanchez, was having a really hard time adjusting to school. “He preferred playing alone at recess and I had a hard time getting him motivated. Now, he greets us in the morning with a smile and comes to school so excited to learn. When I spoke to his mom about it, she mentioned the positive change in him at home as well. That gives me so much joy!”
Moyeda says it is their job as a class to always be there for struggling students and to encourage them. “It makes me proud that my students motivate each other through uplifting words and peer support.”
“Accepting a job at Sanchez Elementary —she says— has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I take so much pride in living in the most diverse city in the United States. But what I really love is that I get to come to work and make a difference every single day. I receive so much joy in seeing my students grow in their academics and in their character.”