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Perspectives: Education in the 21st Century
Reforming Education & K-12

Teacher Spotlight a Talk with Laura Corzo

Laura Corzo

Laura Corzo has been teaching for more than 20 years and was recently named 2011 Hispanic Teacher of the Year. Corzo believes in giving her students every possible advantage and has even created her own literacy program, “Mrs. Corzo’s Suitcase,” to give  students — many of whom are learning to speak English — more practice at home.

GOOD: How long have you been teaching and what kind of students do you serve?

Laura Corzo: I’ve been a teacher for 20 years in Palm Beach County [Florida]. For the past six years I’ve been teaching fourth grade. This year and last year, I’ve been working with advanced/gifted students and also EASL (English As A Second Language) students.

GOOD: How do you manage to inspire your students and not just teach to the test?

Corzo: What I do every year is create and implement reading programs to enrich the curriculum that I have to teach. I’ve written and received numerous grants to be able to implement those programs. So I do those in addition to what I have to do with the curriculum.

GOOD: How do you motivate students who haven’t been successful in the past?

Corzo: Like I said earlier, those [supplemental] programs are written not only to enrich the curriculum, but to also help those students who have different needs in the classroom. It encourages them to read and write. I also have another program, which involves the parents; it’s a reading at home program.

GOOD: How do you keep parents in the loop about what’s going on in your classroom?

Corzo: To keep parents involved and informed, there’s a weekly newsletter that is sent home. Also, students have a daily agenda, which is used to write their assignments and homework, but it’s also used as a communication tool. We also have literacy night at school and there are different activities that involve the parents.

GOOD: How do you incorporate your students’ culture into your classroom?

Corzo: What we’ve done over the past few years is [have] students create a PowerPoint presentation on a country [that relates] to their heritage. Along with that, they have to present it to the class. Also, as a culminating activity, they have to bring in a dish or a food item and we have a multicultural lunch.

GOOD: What forms of technology do you use in your classroom?

Corzo: We try to incorporate technology by using a document camera [and] the internet. We can show the students PowerPoint presentations, but that’s all we have for now.

GOOD: What’s on your technology wish list?

Corzo: Well, I wish we had Kindles in the classroom so each student could have one and experience them.  I wish we were able to use [interactive] White Boards. Also, I wish students could have iPads to use in the classroom.

GOOD: What is the greatest challenge and greatest success you’ve had?

Corzo: My biggest challenge has been working with the ELL [English Language Learners] students. These students are not only trying to learn English, but they are expected to learn in English. They are students who are literate and educated, and yet, language is the issue. So, at the same time they are learning English, they have to catch up academically with their peers.

The biggest success would be with the same students in how they come speaking no English or very limited English, and by the end of the year they are speaking English.

GOOD: What’s the biggest misconception about teachers?

Corzo: The biggest misconception about teachers is that we don’t work during the summer. We put in a lot of hours after school and take a lot of work home. They’re a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that people don’t see.

GOOD: What kind of advice would you give to new teachers?

Corzo: My advice for new teachers would be to go to work every day with a positive attitude, bring that joy into the classroom and share it with your students. There’s a lot of pressure out there for teachers, but don’t give up. And always have high expectations for your students.

To read more from the GOOD Guide to Great Teaching, click here.

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