Amanda Vasquez never imagined herself going back to work for the middle school she attended. “I have taught for 10 years, all of them at Burbank Middle School. I started as a teacher’s aide, and I completed enough college hours to become a teaching assistant.” Today she is the 7th grade ESL teacher in the Dual Language program. “It’s been a great experience for me,” Ms. Vasquez says.
She has about 100 students that come to her classroom every day. “I teach ‘on my feet.’ I keep busy with my students because I want them to be engaged in my lessons.”
At the beginning of the year, Ms. Vasquez makes it clear that they will be challenged. “Are they nervous, scared, or show a lack of interest? Of course! But, throughout the first semester, it definitely changes. They become accustomed to my routines and expectations and become confident. On the other hand, I have English Language Learners whose first day is in December or even March!” And that becomes her biggest challenge. Nonetheless, it is in those students that she “sees the biggest transformation by the end of the school year.”
For this school term, she was assigned a tutor who came in every other to help with one low level ESL group. “After planning some lessons, I would take one half of the group and she would take the other. For this particular class, it worked best to have them is small groups. One day, she was pulled to do something else, and I got a bit worried because she wasn’t going to be with me, I had to switch plans quickly. Before I was able to tell the students, I noticed them moving by themselves into our routine of ‘stations.’ I pulled one of the strongest ESL students and asked him to be my helper. The next thing I knew, he was taking over that group! It was amazing to see the others be attentive to him! After that, it was a way to motivate them to be my helpers, a leader among the others.”
This year, Ms. Vasquez was nominated as a finalist for the HAABE Bilingual Teacher of the Year award. The recognition comes as no surprise since it is the third time in her decade of teaching she has been selected.
She admits that teaching just comes naturally to her. “I’d like to think that I have a niche for it; I’m very passionate about what I do.” When she was deciding on what career path to take, one of her mentors Dr. Linda Velasquez “pushed” her to “register for college and become an ESL teacher. There was something she saw in me and made sure to always tell me I had a special gift,” Vasquez recognizes.
Now, her biggest goal is to make her students feel “comfortable and feel reassured that something like learning another language will come with time, practice, and patience. Having to target these language and comprehension skills takes a ton of creativity and planning on my part.” Over the years, Vasquez says, “that has come with ease to me.”
This born and raised Houstonian, soccer fan, photography enthusiast and mariachi singer plans to always to keep a relationship with her students. “I love when they come back to visit to tell me where life after middle school has taken them. It’s amazing to see how much they have grown and hear about their lives after graduating.”