EL Teacher of the Year


Published: Published: December 3rd, 2018

Superintendent Douglas Announces EL Teacher of the Year

Miriam Romero

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas announced that the 2018 Arizona English Language Learner (EL) Teacher of the Year is Miriam Romero of Carrillo K-5 Magnet School in the Tucson Unified School District.

“It is an honor to recognize Miriam Romero as an outstanding teacher,” Superintendent Douglas said. “Her passion and commitment to educating Arizona’s EL students were evident by the way her school and students reacted to the news that she was selected the 2018 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year.”

Romero will be honored at a banquet on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson. This event is being held in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition Services (OELAS) 2018 Conference, “The Art of Language.”

The process for choosing the 2018 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year began with the call for applications in May of 2018. In October, judging by a panel of peers was facilitated by OELAS, and the honoree was chosen.

On November 13, 2018, Superintendent Douglas and officials from OELAS made a surprise visit to Carrillo K-5 Magnet School in Tucson to inform Mrs. Romero that she had been selected the 2018 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year.

When asked about her educational philosophy, Mrs. Romero stated, “I feel privileged to teach and learn with the children in my ELD [English Language Development] Resource classes. As a teacher, I help my students bridge this divide between home and school, two worlds which traditionally have been at odds with each other for many generations of EL students in the United States. Throughout the year I use my SEI [Structured English Immersion] lessons to instill a sense of purpose and pride behind all the English learning we do at school. I want my students to see themselves as academics who hold an integral part in the school and their communities at large. It is my job to teach my students the skills they need to continue their growth as scholars, learning, evolving and thinking critically about their role in society, long after they leave my classroom.”

Mrs. Romero continued, “It is essential that instructors make school a safe and accepting place for their students. An instructor must take their varied students’ life experiences, cultures, histories and languages as source of inspiration for student learning. Achieving this high level of participation can be challenging. For EL teachers, involving students who may have very limited English or are unsure of their academic voice can be a constant struggle. It is essential you learn about and recognize who your students are beyond their traditional classroom identity, which is usually based on test scores and very antiquated notions of what makes a good scholar.”

Miriam Romero was born in Tucson, Arizona and began her teaching career in the Tucson Unified School District, where she has taught for 12 years. For the last 11 years, she has been teaching at Carrillo K-5 Magnet School, the school she attended as a student. Over the course of her teaching career, Mrs. Romero has taught first through fifth grade English learners. Miriam received dual degrees from the University of Arizona in 2007. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Education concentrated in Bilingual Education as well as a Bachelor of Arts concentrated in Spanish and Portuguese Literature. Her endorsements include English as a Second Language and Library/Educational Media. Miriam is married and has four amazing children.

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Published: Published: December 7th, 2017

Superintendent Douglas Announces English Learner Teacher of the Year

At the Office of English Language Acquisition Services (OELAS) Conference awards banquet last night, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas announced that the 2017 Arizona English Learner (EL) Teacher of the Year is Kelly Neckels of Amberlea Elementary School in the Pendergast Elementary School District in Phoenix.

“It is an honor to recognize such an outstanding and beloved teacher as Kelly Neckels,” said Superintendent Douglas. “The energy and excitement at the banquet when her name was announced made it very clear how truly deserving she is of the award. Her district’s administration at could not say enough about her devotion towards her craft and her students.”

Neckels was honored at Wednesday night’s OELAS awards banquet at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson. The OELAS Conference, which was entitled “Opening Doors through Language,” also awarded four standout students with prizes for being recognized as English Learner Student Success Stories.

The process for choosing the 2017 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year began with the call for nominations in May 2017. Judging took place in October with a panel of peers, facilitated by OELAS, ultimately choosing the honoree.

On October 27, 2017, Superintendent Douglas and officials from OELAS made a surprise visit to Amberlea Elementary to inform Neckels that she had been selected as the 2017 Arizona EL Teacher of the Year.

When asked to describe her educational philosophy as is relates to teaching EL students, Neckels responded, “My educational philosophy, as it relates to teaching EL students, is to cultivate an environment where my students feel a sense of security to take risks in their learning, to push themselves even further than their academic comfort level and to develop a love and passion for learning all while developing their proficiency in the English language. I also believe that showing my students how much I care about them as people, as well as learners, encourages them to develop positive relationships among each other. When my students feel secure, encouraged and loved, they support each other in their journey to becoming proficient in the English language.”

“I truly feel that every single day that I walk away from teaching my EL students I feel rewarded!” Neckels stated. “I get an overwhelming sense of excitement and pride when I hear my students use complete sentences with their peers or on their own, struggle with a difficult concept but do not give up until they succeed, face their fear of speaking in front of the class, explain how they got their answer on a math problem, or encourage each other to not be afraid to try.”

Neckels graduated with honors from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and earned her Master’s degree in Education from Northern Arizona University. Neckels has been a teacher at Amberlea for the past 11 years, and is currently a third grade Structured English Immersion teacher. She has taught EL students for the past 18 years.

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