Juliana Urtubey, a Hispanic educator resident of Nevada was named the National Teacher of the Year in the United States. Her recognition which took place on Thursday honored her work building, overseeing, and teaching in a school garden that grew into an outdoor classroom, and for connecting deeply with her students, many of whom come from immigrant families.
Juliana Urtubey was born in Bogota, Colombia, and raised in Arizona. She has been a teacher for 11 years, working with elementary school students in Las Vegas, personalizing lessons to match their academic, emotional and behavioral needs.
As reported by Telemundo 62, United States First Lady Jill Biden congratulated Urtubey during a surprise visit to her classroom Thursday in Las Vegas. She said the educator is the epitome of a great teacher.
Surprise! Congratulations @JulianaUrtubey3 on being named the 2021 National Teacher of the Year! I’m so glad I got to celebrate and honor you in person. All of us at the @WhiteHouse thank you for the joy you bring to your students, their families, and to all who meet you. #NTOY21 pic.twitter.com/k5mvZojTSO
— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) May 6, 2021
Urtubey is the first Hispanic to receive this award since 2005 and the first Nevada teacher to receive this recognition.
In a Chalkbeat interview, the talented Colombian teacher said this year “helped remind us that our impact as educators is only as strong as our connection and commitment to families.”
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Her remarkable work and dedication included teaching at 7:00 pm. “There were families where their only technology access was a cell phone, and the student had access to that cell phone once a family member got home from work. So we did phone tutoring and classes whenever we could.”
The garden experience
Uturbey used a garden as a classroom as an example of her compromise with a real education connected with life as a whole. “In terms of using garden science to teach, I think the most powerful lesson was having my students look for patterns in the garden and associating that with multiplication,” the honored teacher explained.
“Students who displayed off-task behaviors, when they’re in a garden, they’re grounded, pun intended. I had students who had severe behavior challenges in the classroom, and in the garden they were calmer and open to learning.”
The gift of a second language
The native from Bogotá said that her own experience as an immigrant has widened her insight on learning a second language. “I know firsthand what it’s like to be in a country that is new to you, and to have barriers to access in terms of language. Kids who are learning English as a second language, I call them linguistically gifted. I think anyone who speaks a language other than their most commonly spoken language is offering us a gift.”
Uturbey’s recognition makes all Hispanics proud and gives us hope to continue believing in the contribution that this valuable community can bring to the world.