PALMDALE – Every child needs a champion to lead, encourage and help them as they learn and grow. Many children have found such a champion in Palmdale School District’s Miriam Torres, the Dos Caminos School teacher who was selected as the California Association of Bilingual Educators’ 2015 Teacher of the Year.
“I am honored by this award,” said Torres. “For me, it is personally special because of my experiences as a student.”
Torres, who has taught in Palmdale for 15 years, immigrated with her family from Jalisco, Mexico when she was only 3 years old. Spanish was the only language spoken in her home and the only language she knew when she entered school.
“Not knowing things is not the same as not being able to communicate them,” explained Torres, who was placed in a low-level kindergarten class in her Los Angeles school because she could not speak to her teachers. The experience was a challenge that left Torres feeling discouraged and looked down upon.
Things started to change for Torres when she was “saved” by a class aide who would sit with her and translate. The coming years were difficult, but Torres was able to learn English and stay current with others in her grade. Torres went on to finish her education and, inspired by her experiences, she became a teacher.
“I never want a child to feel what I felt,” Torres said.
Torres has taught at Dos Caminos, a dual immersion school, for the last two years. In dual immersion schools, students study all subjects in both English and Spanish, helping them to become fully bilingual. Some students come to the school speaking English; others come speaking only Spanish.
“I get to be their champion,” said Torres. “I see myself in these kids and get to give them what I never had.”
It is this engrained desire to provide opportunities to her students that brought Torres to the attention of California Associations of Bilingual Educators, or CABE. Nominated by her peers, Torres was ultimately selected as the CABE 2015 Teacher of the Year.
Torres credits the award to the team she works with.
“I am who I am because of the teachers I work with, the administrators who help me and the parents who inspire me to be better than I am,” said Torres.
Torres is the fourth Palmdale School District teacher to earn the honor, directly preceded by the 2014 honoree, Luz Álvarez, a teacher at Los Amigos School, Palmdale’s other dual immersion campus.
“To have another Palmdale educator selected as CABE Teacher of the Year is a great honor,” said Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado. “In our district, where 72 percent of our students are Hispanic, it represents our commitment to providing a relevant education to our English Learner students in a program that can excel their achievement in two languages.”
Torres was officially recognized March 4 at the CABE 2015 Convention in San Diego.