Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal announced Monday that the 2014 Arizona English Language Learner Teacher of the Year is Ms. Raquel Tapia of Mesquite Elementary School in the Crane Elementary School District in Yuma.
Ms. Tapia will be honored at a banquet at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson on Wednesday, December 10, 2014. This event is being held in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition Services (OELAS) 2014 Conference “Empowering Literacy through Language.”
The process for choosing the 2014 Arizona ELL Teacher of the Year began with the request for applications in May 2014. In October, the judging by a panel of peers was facilitated by OELAS, and the honoree was chosen.
On November 14, 2014, Superintendent Huppenthal, a member of his staff, and officials from OELAS made a surprise visit to Mesquite Elementary School to inform Ms. Tapia that she had been selected as the 2014 Arizona English Language Learner Teacher of the Year.
“It is an honor to recognize Ms. Tapia for her empowering work with Arizona’s ELL students,” said Superintendent Huppenthal. “Ms. Tapia’s devotion to helping each of her students reach their maximum academic potential is inspirational and I would like to thank her for her service and support to her ELL students and the ELL community.”
Upon receiving the award, Ms. Tapia stated, “It is an honor to represent the ELL population as an ELL student myself, it is an honor to represent teachers of ELL students, and it is an honor to represent our community.”
When asked to describe her educational philosophy as related to teaching ELL students, her response was quite simple.
She said, “I know first-hand many of the challenges my students face in our agricultural (seasonal/migrant) and border town community. My goal is to empower my students to overcome these challenges while motivating them to learn and think for themselves . . . The energy and passion I devote to their education transfers to their own love of learning. My students desire to learn and think for themselves, which is the very definition, in my opinion, of student empowerment.”
Raquel Tapia graduated with honors from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Also with honors, she earned a Master’s in Multicultural and Bilingual Education. Ms. Tapia has a Structured English Immersion (SEI) endorsement, a Reading Specialist endorsement, and a Bilingual endorsement. Ms. Tapia is a first grade SEI Teacher and has been teaching ELL students for ten years.