“I introduce myself as a bilingual education major; I’m 4th through 8th. And when people say ‘Oh! You’re the education major’ I say ‘No, bilingual education major’.”
Beatriz Gutiérrez was only a second grader in Texas when she started transitioning into an English-only classroom setting and receiving ESL pull-out services. Despite the circumstances that distanced Beatriz from using her native language at elementary school, she decided to return to Spanish in middle and high school, having the support of her parents and teachers.
Although initially Beatriz had planned to pursue a health-related career, her experience as a math tutor for undergraduate students at Texas Woman’s University awakened her interest in combining her math skills with bilingual education. She wanted to help those children who suffered from a language barrier as Beatriz did as a young student. “I think this is it. I think this is my purpose. I’m supposed to be here helping bilingual kids” she noted. As a result, she decided to switch from biology to bilingual education. “I felt that if I did only math education” Beatriz shares, “a part of me would have not been fulfilled. I feel I could make a better impact on bilingual students.”
The PIONERAS scholarship she received in 2017, made possible by the support of the USDE’s Office of English Language Acquisition, allows Beatriz to take bilingual education courses in Spanish, do a practicum in local schools, collaborate with in-service teachers, and participate in a transnational teacher education program in Costa Rica. Referring to the courses in Spanish, she says: “It was so hard at first…I realized how much I needed to grow in my Spanish knowledge! But I’m so happy it happened… The courses have helped me see my identity more clearly…going through these courses makes me really proud of my background and everything that my parents have brought into. I feel that I’ve seen the struggles that they have gone through because I’ve visited where they are from…and I see where I am now”.
This spring and summer, Beatriz has been teaching students in an elementary and a middle school as part of her PIONERAS coursework on second language acquisition and English as a second language. “I feel these courses through PIONERAS have helped me to gain confidence to use my language skills and cultural background to assist bilingual children in their learning process”. She admits feeling intimidated at the beginning of this field experience, but recognizes how this has expanded her career interests: “I went into all this education thing thinking 6th grade math. That’s all I wanted to teach. And then going through all these experiences, especially now at Hodge (elementary school with bilingual program), I know I can teach pre-K and K and even 9th grade…and not only math! I know I can teach reading, writing, lectura… I’m now seeing the importance of reading, especially developing the habit at an early age. I can be an advocate for that and go teach Kindergarten!”
Beatriz advocates for bilingual education through middle school. This summer, she worked with a seventh grade school emergent bilingual student on Spanish reading lessons. She felt confident about what to do thanks to what she had learned in her courses: “I could tell that she [her student] really appreciated that, and that it really helped her… It’s so cool to see them light up”. Using the book Antes de Ser Libres, Beatriz worked with the student to identify the predictions and elaborate on them in Spanish. She agrees that, as a bilingual teacher, she can help emergent bilinguals build their language and academic knowledge from the foundation of their first language. Beatriz realizes that “it is with the Spanish that she already knew that she got her answer…” “If it had not been for the PIONERAS courses”, she mentions, “I don’t think I would have had the confidence to help out or the ability, the mindset to help out that seventh grader who was struggling.”
Beatriz attributes her increasing passion for bilingual education to her experience doing collaborative work with an in-service PIONERAS teacher. A visit to the home of a bilingual student in the area allowed her to create connections with her own background. Additionally, knowing that she could communicate with the student’s mother in her first language validated the use of her own heritage language for her profession and beyond the classroom: “It’s not only the kids who need me; it’s also the parents who need us to advocate for them because of that language barrier… So I need to go to a Title I school… I need to help the parents reach their dreams of seeing their kids succeed, just like my parents are seeing me succeed now.”
Beatriz is now working on her future goals. She would like to work in a Title I school and while doing that, wishes to go back to school to obtain a graduate degree in linguistics. “As a first generation college student, it is really cool to see my success, which happened thanks to my parents’ support, my willingness to become a professional woman and the PIONERAS project that helped me to improve my language and teaching skills. I feel a lot more confident as a person because I know who I am, that I am Latina and that it’s OK for me to be super proud of it. These courses have helped me find myself, you know?”
Page last updated 3:48 PM, September 27, 2018