In a typical second grade classroom, a certain amount of chaos can be expected. But in portable building No. 4 at Mount Auburn Elementary School, Àngel López’s bilingual second grade class ticks like clockwork.
From the time López welcomes a new set of students to his classroom in August to the day he sends them off in late May, his students undergo a complete transformation. Emphasizing routine, he trains his pupils to work together to achieve balance in the classroom. The technique, he says, not only maintains order — it helps his students learn.
The method also helped set López apart as an award-winning educator — he recently was honored as the 2007 Texas Alternative Certification Association Elementary School Teacher of the Year.
After moving to Dallas from Puerto Rico, where he earned his doctorate degree in school violence, Lopez completed the district’s alternative certification program. He began teaching at Mount Auburn in 2005 and is now entering his third year.
The award is an honor that Mount Auburn principal Mary Lou Martinez believes is well -eserved.
“He instills in them this self confidence,” Martinez says of his students. “They come out, and I can just see their shoulders held back and their heads high.”
Each day, López’s class begins by honoring the flag. After the Pledge of Allegiance to both Old Glory and the Texas state flag, the class listens to “ the Beautiful” and takes a moment of silence.
During this time, the second-graders patriotically stand while holding their small hands over their hearts. López has taught them the importance of respect for the flag and what it stands for. Such a routine was expected of him as a student in Puerto Rico.
“You have to respect the flag,” López says. López works hard to teach his students the concept of respect, not only to the nation but also the classroom, each other and themselves.
“I love my kids, and I want them to act like this outside of the classroom,” López says.
It’s clear that his methods have affected them. When a visiting teacher enters the classroom, each one of López’s students stands to greet her in unison. While López chats with the teacher, his students remain seated quietly at their desks. As the teacher leaves, she compliments the students on their respectable behavior, and many smile bashfully.
López also involves his pupils with singing, dancing and hands-on activities that make up most of his lessons. Even lessons about telling time and counting money are accompanied by song.
During one of the three 30-minute math lessons throughout the day, López sings a song about a woman going to the market to buy an object for a specified amount of money. A student must respond by knowing the correct number and type of coins she should pay. By incorporating a song and catchy motions, he is able to engage the students.
“I like Mr. López’s class because he gives us homework to learn, and we get to sing,” says second-grader Stephanie Juarez.
He also assigns each student a job that contributes to the class; distributing pencils at the beginning of the day, for example. Beyond their assigned roles in the classroom, all of López’s students take on leadership roles and assist their peers.
He calls his students “super-kids” and tells them each day that they are part of one familia, or family. He hopes what he offers his students will benefit them far into the future.
“Trust me, I love what I am doing,” López says. “It is an honor to have kids like this.”
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