Ms. Brenda Ramirez is emphatic about her passion to educate children. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. When I was little, I remember playing pretend teacher with my siblings and neighbors. Then I went to the University of Houston-Downtown and I had an awesome professor who really inspired me to become one,” she says while gazing at the timer in the wall. It is dismissal at Mark White Elementary and her second graders have a couple of minutes left to get ready.
“Okay, boys and girls —she claps rhythmically three times and her scholars clap back signaling attention—, while we wait, tell me something new you learned from the lesson we had today,” children raise their hands, then one of them says: “I learned that the —he looks at the board— stem of a plant is like a straw because it —he glances again for the correct word— absorbs the water.”
Ms. Ramirez later explains that having the word wall up gives students the opportunity to respond using the vocabulary just learned. “I combine this while using sentence stems to provide scaffolding to help students get started in speaking in complete sentences.”
When walking into her classroom you can easily see the content and language objectives that, during instruction, she reinforces. “I remind them about the objective at the beginning, middle, and end of the lesson,” she says. There is also a print-rich environment full of word walls, charts, and realia material. In this case, students are growing plants out of bean seeds.
“I know the struggle that the kids suffer learning a second language. When I started school I was struggling a lot until I started participating in a bilingual program. I even remember some of the things I was taught back in first or second grade, like cognates.”
In her classroom, she follows the Literacy by 3. “Every morning we do the phonics a mini-lesson, read aloud, guided reading and we also work in centers,” she points out.
“Every year have newcomers and I do guided small groups in Spanish and build English, I work with the reading interventionist and we bridge it with English. We start in Spanish and they complete their assignments in Spanish. We offer them a lot of differentiation strategies.” Little by little the student starts to incorporate English in their vocabulary and finally they receive instruction in the second language.
Ms. Brenda Ramirez has been a teacher for 5 years and this academic term was selected as Bilingual Teacher of the Year at Mark White Elementary! Congratulations!