Irma De La Guardia’s third-grade dual-language classroom at Harry C. Withers Elementary School is bright and engaging. Bulletin boards around the classroom are all labeled in both English and Spanish, and round tables allow students to collaborate. It’s a place where students can enjoy learning.
Originally an auditor in Mexico City, De La Guardia and her husband moved to the Dallas area nearly 15 years ago. A career change through Alternative Certification led her to the Dallas ISD a few years later. “I wanted to make an impact on society; make a difference in my community,” she said. In 2007, De La Guardia was recruited to Withers to help start its dual-language program. Last school year, the Multi-language Enrichment Program instructional coaches named her Dallas ISD’s nominee for the Bilingual/ESL Education Association of the Metroplex Teacher of the Year.
After winning the local award, she progressed to the state level, and in September, the Texas Association for Bilingual Education selected her as 2014 Bilingual Education Teacher of the Year. She will travel to McAllen in October where she will be honored during the TABE annual conference. “The award is really for Withers and a reflection of what the district is doing well,” said De La Guardia. “We work together as a team. The face is me but this highlights all the work that everyone has put in.”
The goal for students in the dual-language program at Withers is for them to be bi-literate by fifth grade. “It has been proven that the dual-language program closes the achievement gap at a faster rate. By fifth grade, we should see the achievement gap completely closed,” explained De La Guardia. “It gives all the students the opportunity to speak two languages and become multi-cultural. It’s an important way for them to understand the way people from other cultures think and relate.”
As the state winner, De La Guardia becomes the TABE nominee for the National Association for Bilingual Education Teacher of the Year competition. The NABE winner will be announced in December.