Andrea de Gatica, a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESOL) at Thomas A. Edison High School in Alexandria (Fairfax County), Virginia, received the 2010 Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Hispanic Teacher of the Year Award at Marymount University's Education Dinner on May 3.
The award, established by the Hispanic Youth Foundation, is named for Mrs. de Sanchez, a remarkable teacher who was a leader in establishing schools, training teachers, and developing textbooks and curricula for schools across Latin America. She also was active in the Reading is Fun-damental and Head Start programs in the United States.
Victoria Sanchez, granddaughter of Victoria D. de Sanchez, presented the award and a $2,000 check to Ms. de Gatica, saying, "My grandmother devoted herself to students, teachers and communities her entire life. She would be delighted to know that teachers like Andrea de Gatica continue with her vision." In 2008, the award was endowed at Marymount University so that outstanding Hispanic teachers in the community will continue to be recognized.
Ms. de Gatica is originally from Santiago, Chile, and now lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She speaks five languages fluently - English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese - and is certified to teach Spanish, French, and English, as well as ESOL. Ms. de Gatica holds an undergraduate degree in English and Spanish Literature from the University of Montreal; a Master of Science in Education, specializing in ESOL from the Catholic University of Chile; and a Master of Arts in Foreign Language from George Mason University.
She taught at George Mason High School in Falls Church from 2002 to 2005, where she established a Parents as Educational Partners (PEP) program to provide parents with the information and resources to help their children succeed. Ms. de Gatica also created a student-exchange program between George Mason and a school in Chile, where her sister teaches. The program is still going strong, and several students who have participated in the exchange program have decided to become Spanish teachers as a result of their experience.
In 2005, Ms. de Gatica moved to Thomas Edison H.S., where she quickly became the faculty mentor to the Hispanic Leadership Club, which is a vehicle for improving the public image and self image of Hispanic youth. She has also inspired other schools in Fairfax County to start their own Hispanic Leadership Clubs. She explains, "Through the club, students work to portray a positive image of the Hispanic community and serve as role models. They meet monthly with the Thomas Edison principal, Gregory Croghan; bring in community and business leaders to speak about their pathway to success; organize service projects; and work with parents, providing computer training." Ms. de Gatica also works closely with the Padres Latinos group for Hispanic parents at Thomas Edison to help them motivate their children. "I wanted the parents to get involved in school activities and to feel a connection with the school," she points out. "When parents, teachers, and students work together, learning is enhanced."
Principal Croghan, who attended the award ceremony at Marymount, said, "Andrea is a great teacher in the classroom and does so much for us. She is able to bring children to the point of being excited about what they can achieve. She challenges them and motivates them to motivate themselves." Regarding the Hispanic Leadership Club, he added, "It puts kids in leadership positions throughout the school, so it's very positive for the whole school community!"
Andrea de Gatica and her students are making a difference in their school and their community.
Photo 1 - Andrea de Gatica
Photo 2 - left to right: James E. Bundschuh, president of Marymount University; Victoria Sanchez; Andrea de Gatica and her husband, Mike Stollenwerk; Mike Sierra, president of The Ventura Group, who helped establish the Hispanic Teacher of the Year Award; and Gregory Croghan, principal of Thomas Edison High School.