Perez Elementary dual language teacher María Jesús Sebastián was named National Bilingual Education 2020 Teacher of the Year.
The National Association for Bilingual Educators made the announcement today at an awards luncheon in Las Vegas. The award recognizes a teacher’s efforts to promote the importance of languages, literacy and equity in the classroom.
Sebastián said she uses the idea of a transformative classroom at Perez, creating personalized pathways for her students. She encourages them to take ownership of their learning by making their own decisions on how they learn and how they showcase the mastery of what they’ve learned.
“My students can choose where they want to work, and with whom,” Sebastián said. “They can also choose materials they want to use to learn content. They can learn content in Spanish at different levels, and then they can transfer their learning to English.”
Sebastián said that, for her, winning the NABE means experts in bilingual education support the idea of a transformative classroom.
“This award means that our vision in AISD is validated around the nation,” she said.
AISD Executive Director of Multilingual Education David Kauffman said he was extremely proud to see Sebastián recognized at the national level.
“She is committed to providing emergent bilingual students with a dual language education grounded in a recognition of the tremendous linguistic, academic and cultural gifts that they bring to school,” he said.
Sebastián teaches two-way dual language courses in reading, writing, science and social studies and has been with Perez for 13 years, her entire teaching career.
She said she emphasizes to her students cross-linguistic connections, which help them more clearly understand how both languages work, and she shares her personal experience as a bilingual person.
“I explain my struggles and difficulties but how, at the end, all efforts pay off,” she said.
Sebastian’s efforts include what she learned in completing the Leadership Pathways for Transformative Technology in May 2019.
Through this program teachers are equipped for tailoring learning to each student’s strengths, needs, and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn.