‘Teacher of the Week’ inspires first graders to learn Spanish and appreciate other cultures

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Research shows exposure to a foreign language at an early age can boost a child’s analytical abilities because their brains are capable of absorbing and learning things quickly.

Recently, we received a ‘Teacher of the Week’ nomination for Claudia Tirado who teaches first grade students at International School at Gregory in Wilmington.

The K-8 campus is the only dual language magnet school program in New Hanover County.

Tirado has four native Spanish-speaking students but the rest are learning how to speak and read the language for the first time.

“When I was younger, I didn’t think of becoming a teacher,” Tirado said.

After enrolling at a university in South America, Tirado changed her mind.

“I felt that it was the right choice and at some point, it was like – I really love this,” she said.

Originally, from Bogota, Colombia, Tirado has taught school twelve years and the last five at Gregory.

Students in grades K-5 alternate between one week of English instruction followed by a week of Spanish.

“I feel passionate about teaching and I think that I can show them that the world is bigger than they think, that there are so many things they can learn that they can explore and that’s my reward,” she said. “I believe in education as a tool to change the world and that’s what I try to do.”

Leigh Ann Lampley is the school’s principal and says she’s not surprised we selected Tirado as ‘Teacher of the Week.’

“She is a rock star in our building,” Lampley said. “Claudia also brings a lot of culture to the table, her students love learning about where she’s from, and traditions and experiences from her own life.”

A little more than 500 students attend school at Gregory and they come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.

“That’s what so great about this program,” Lampley said. “It is not carved out to be something special for a certain population of students. All students can benefit from learning a second language.”

Tirado says she’s honored to be our ‘Teacher of the Week.’

“It was so exciting and I was about to cry, I almost burst into tears,” she said. “I was very surprised, my heart was racing and I was really happy about it.”

Tirado is doing more than teaching first graders how to read and speak her native language.

“I believe what I do gives me a chance to change maybe one kid’s life at a time,” she said.

Teaching an appreciation of cultural diversity is another thing she hopes to inspire with her students.

If you know a teacher who’s doing remarkable things in the classroom, click here to nominate them for ‘Teacher of the Week.’ Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card thanks in part to our partner, Down East Heating and Air Conditioning.

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