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Martinez, Spooner and Varughese named 2021 Bilingual/ESL Teachers of the Year

Bilingual/ESL TOY        Pearland Independent School District teachers Karen Martínez, Karen Spooner and Christina Varughese share a passion for helping students whose native language is not English succeed in and out of the classroom.

       Thanks to their commitment to teaching bilingual/English as a Second Language (ESL) students, Carleston Elementary’s Martínez is Pearland ISD’s 2021 Bilingual Teacher of the Year, Rogers Middle School’s Spooner is the Elementary ESL Teacher of the Year and Berry Miller Junior High’s Varughese is the Secondary ESL Teacher of the Year.

       The three teachers have one important aspect in common, which helped shape them as educators: they were all ESL students themselves, at one point in their lives.

       “When I started the process of becoming a certified American teacher, it was not even a question if I would take the ESL certification test,” Spooner, who was born in Korea and is a Pearland ISD graduate, said. “I knew that my story would make a difference and to be the teacher that I needed as a child, as an immigrant and as a struggling student was exactly what I wanted to pass along to the next generation.”

       Martínez’s, Spooner’s and Varughese’s understanding of what it feels like to live in a foreign country while navigating being a young student helps them connect with their own students, making a lasting impact every day in the classroom.

       “I have had several students who have become all grown up, now connect with me through social media and express the value and gratitude to learning the language of English, which has got them to great heights, in a land where you can dream and see it happen,” Varughese said. “That makes my work priceless.”

The three teachers empower students of different grades with the tools to be successful not only in school, but also in life.

       “My goal in a dual language classroom is to provide specific strategies to reinforce their first language and expand grammar in their second language,” Martinez said. “Each student has the right to a bilingual education and to mature their mother tongue, promote their mastery and then acquire a high level of competence of their second language.”

       Karen Martínez, Karen Spooner and Christina Varughese will represent Pearland ISD in the Houston Area Association for Bilingual Education (HAABE) teacher of the year contest, which recognizes outstanding bilingual and ESL educators from Houston and surrounding areas.