Virginia Luna, English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher at Dalton High School, was recognized at the state level as an Exemplary ESOL teacher for the second year in a row. This recognition is given to teachers who have been nominated by their school district.
Luna never expected that she would receive this honor for a second year, and when she first heard the news she said she was surprised and excited.
"I did not think I would have been nominated again, and I felt like it was such a great honor," Luna said. "I would like to say thank you to whoever nominated me, my administration for being so supportive at all times, and all of my coworkers that make my job so much more fun!"
Luna credits her own background as an English language learner with helping her teach her students at an exemplary level.
"I love teaching English Language Learners," Luna said. "I came to this country in 2001, I was 9 years old, about to turn 10, and I started 6th grade. I did not know a single word in English. I try to teach my students the same way I was taught, by building on what they know. For me it is a little bit easier, since we share a lot of the same backgrounds, so my students and I can relate to one another."
As soon as she began school in the United States, Luna knew she wanted to become a teacher one day. Thanks to the influence of both her own ESOL teachers and her regular classroom teachers, she found her calling in life.
"I had wonderful ESOL and regular content teachers that helped me out and taught me so much about the language and the culture itself," Luna said. "When I finished high school and started college, I majored in Early Childhood Education. Towards the end of my degree, I began to realize that teaching ESOL was really where I wanted my career to go at that point. Dalton High School gave me that opportunity to give back to my community all the things that I once received as a newcomer."
As an Exemplary ESOL Teacher, Luna was able to nominate one of her students to be recognized as an Exemplary English Learner. She, along with her fellow ESOL teachers, chose Huazhong Li, who graduated from Dalton High School this year, to receive this recognition.
"We really had a tough time choosing because we have so many great kids at our school, but Li stood out the most," Luna said. "Li is a student who was in multiple Advanced Placement Courses, dual-enrolled at Dalton State, and managed to get straight A's. He was also volunteering to help struggling students with math. He really is a wonderful example of what an Exemplary Student should be."
For Luna, the real reward of teaching ESOL is watching students learn over the course of the year.
"I believe our ESOL students are amazing, they have to learn the content at the same time that they are learning the language," Luna said. "When you get a student who knows little to no English and by the end of the year, they have acquired more English and passed all of their classes, it is a great feeling of accomplishment for all of us."