Rodrigo Rodriguez-Tovar was born in Mexico, but he found his calling in America.
The fourth grade bilingual teacher at Cook Elementary School has been named Teacher of the Year by the National Association for Bilingual Education.
"I started teaching because I want to help as many people as possible," Rodriguez-Tovar said. "The challenge is to continue to grow, and I'm thankful that Austin ISD gave me a place to do that."
Rodriguez-Tovar earned his master's degree in education and is National Board-certified. He said the recognition by NABE, along with a $500 scholarship and a 3-week trip to study in Spain, validates his passion for education.
But, he said, he already has that validation of his goals from his students.
"The most important thing to me is my kids," Rodriguez-Tovar said. "When they face a challenge in learning, I try to find a way to teach from their culture. I want them to succeed academically, even if they are still learning the language."
Rodriguez-Tovar, whose students come from countries Honduras, Cuba, El Salvador and Mexico, knows the unique obstacles non-native speakers face in a new culture.
After finishing his university studies in Mexico, he immigrated to the U.S. 15 years ago, and recalled the first time he walked into Cook Elementary.
"I went in to do the interview, and I just knew I was home," he said. "It turns out that I had a passion for teaching, and I want to learn as much as I can about my craft so that I can help others."