We end our series on the three CTA members among the 2013 California Teachers of the Year by featuring Veronica Marquez, fifth-grade teacher at Harmony Elementary School in Los Angeles. This United Teachers Los Angeles member teaches gifted students, sheltered English immersion, and bilingual education. A National Board Certified teacher, she has extensive experience providing staff development, mentorships and training for other teachers.
Favorite classroom strategies
My English learners benefit from grouping configurations, so my students move from whole group to small groups to partners. Whole class allows me to introduce key vocabulary, model and review to provide a shared experience for everyone. Small groups provide multiple perspectives and encourage collaboration. Working as partners allows students to practice what they learned. Visual aids make my instruction meaningful; I use pictures, charts, graphs, PowerPoint presentations and skits to introduce, reinforce and clarify points and create interest, increasing students’ understanding and retention level.
Favorite classroom resources
I use literature and music to create an environment in which students want to learn. Books I provide for students’ reading pleasure are rich in vocabulary and content so they learn and develop an appreciation for literature. Songs relate to the themes or time era we’re discussing. Others focus on poetry or figurative language. Students create their own songs using key terms they are learning about. I’ve had students write songs about the solar system, what it was like to grow up during the civil rights movement, and most importantly themselves. Music makes learning fun and interesting!
Favorite Internet links
Www.readwritethink.org offers free K-12 materials in reading and language arts instruction. Www.pinterest.com is a social network to find, organize, save and share interesting images and visual ideas.
Words to live by
Stand up and rise! I stand up and rise for my profession and focus on my students. I mold the future by impacting students’ views and understanding. I stand up to classroom challenges. I rise above mandated policies and teach the child — not because test scores matter, but because students matter.
On having a mentor
I am a reflection of the countless teachers who mentored me throughout my teaching career, especially Violet Rodriguez-Preciado. I could not have survived my first years without her encouragement and wisdom. Through her example and guidance, I defined a clear vision of the type of educator I wanted to become.
Favorite book for professional development or classroom use
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. The book features two-page spreads that take ordinary objects and describe important things about them. Students write poems and essays throughout the year that focus on important things about themselves, the unit we’re studying, famous individuals, or past and current events.
Why I stay in teaching
The rewards of teaching are immeasurable. I help children develop an appreciation for learning. The “aha!” factor, when I see the exact moment that students understand, is magic. It is the pure satisfaction of watching my students bloom into the scholars they were meant to be. I make a difference.