Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Latina Educator Makes History as 2021 National Teacher of the Year

The COVID-19 pandemic forced students out of the classroom and starkly revealed how learning difficulties, distractions, and challenging home dynamics can make tough to adhere to a rigid curriculum.

Juliana Urtubey, newly named 2021 National Teacher of the Year, said that “In a year with so much loss, a silver lining is that educators are embracing a flexible approach that meets students where they are. We, as teachers, are much more open to this self-paced learning, this flipped classroom, which has been an invitation for students who think and learn differently.”

Last week, the Council of Chief State School Officers recognized the Las Vegas special education teacher with the award. Council CEO Carissa Moffat Miller said, “Juliana Urtubey exemplifies the dedication, creativity and heart teachers bring to their students and communities.”

The council said that she is the Latino recipient since 2005 and the first Nevada teacher to win the award. First lady Jill Biden congratulated Urtubey during a surprise visit to her classroom.

“CBS This Morning” aired the surprised video of Urtubey appearing shocked when Biden, also an educator, walked into the classroom and handed her flowers. Urtubey has been an educator for 11 years and works with elementary school students, individualizing lessons to match their academic, emotional, and behavioral needs, which can put challenging as she spends hours with struggling pre-k students as well as strategizing with teachers on how to work with their special- needs students.

“I knew that I could be the kind of teacher that would just take it step by step, have a whole lot of celebration for kids, particularly kids with thinking and learning differences and really just make learning fun. This is by far the most prestigious award that I’ve ever been awarded” she said.