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It Takes Heart to Succeed

Sylvia PadillaSylvia Padilla is being honored as a Champion of Change for her service to education. 

Con el corazón se consigue el éxito

In the last 23 years I have taken a journey with a diverse group of individuals who have influenced me and shaped me as a person and bilingual educator. My colleagues, mentors, my students and their parents have enriched my life’s work; I share my success with them. I am deeply honored to be named White House Champion of Change. As I reflect on my years as a bilingual teacher, the heart of our success lies in a spirit of collaboration for the common goal of biliteracy and success for all students.

Twenty four years ago a group of parents (myself included) became the Long Beach pioneers of an innovative educational vision in which students are put on equal footing with one another and learn to value each other’s language and culture. In 1999 the Patrick Henry’s Two-Way Bilingual Immersion program began with sixty Kindergarten and 1stgrade students. Back then I did not know the effect this program would have on my personal and professional life as my own three children experienced the pride and enrichment of learning in two languages. 

As a parent, I worked diligently to share our program with our community and for years developed and ran a summer introductory program for the new families. When I became one of the teachers I continued to advocate for every facet of the program at the district level.  We have endured difficult political shifts, drastic budget cuts, and increased academic expectations. These have only strengthened my reserve to service my students with a greater focus and purpose. Whenever new assessments are developed by the district, I am the first to volunteer and get others to join me so that parallel evaluations are developed in Spanish. If new instructional materials are purchased, I question to verify they are available in both languages. This last school year I worked on Math Common Core enrichment tasks. I worked with teachers in the district and piloted new activities in my classroom.  This summer I translated these activities so that all dual immersion programs in the district may have equal access to the materials in the target language of instruction.

Our Two Way immersion program has been successful because we have remained true to our goal of bilingualism, high achievement, cross-cultural understanding and acceptance among students. After twenty three years, we have grown from two classrooms to a school-wide program serving over 600 kindergarten through eighth grade students. Today I teach fourth grade and marvel, but I am not surprised at how much our students advance.  I merit the collaborative spirit of every teacher.  When students are viewed as a rich resource for learning rather than limited students soar.  Student diversity is valued because our different backgrounds, interests, knowledge and language offer many opportunities from which to learn and help each other.  All of our teachers work together to help our students reach standards.  We plan weekly and for the English portion of the day all K-5th grade teachers team.  We have learned that the success of all of our students depends on the commitment of our teachers.  Each child is known by name and when a child struggles, we all support each other.

Furthermore, learning and artistic expression cross the borders of our school walls and into the community. The visual and performing arts come alive. All students perform a holiday program in the winter and a Mexican style Mother’s Day program is held in May. After school students are given the opportunity to learn the music and folklore of Latin America by joining our Pasos de Alegría Ballet Folklórico or Polynesian dance group which is run completely by teacher and parent volunteers.  Third graders are introduced to a “estudiantina” vocal group and our special education teacher puts on a spring Musical play. The arts bring our community together the time invested builds pride in every child.

“It takes Heart to Succeed” is our school motto.  I am fortunate to work in an environment where collaboration is at the heart of our success in two languages. 

Sylvia Padilla teaches fourth grade in the two-way bilingual immersion program at Patrick Henry K-8 School in the Long Beach Unified School District