Horalia Escobedo doesn’t just teach her students. She laughs with them. She cries with them. She finds out what makes them tick. And, most importantly, she gets to know their parents.
“I’m not doing anything different than my other colleagues in the school district,” said the modest fourth-grade bilingual teacher at Beverly Skoff Elementary School. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m doing my job.”
But in reality, Escobedo is going way above and beyond what “the job” calls for because she believes the key, as she puts it, “is to know the kid before you ever know if he can read or write or how he spells. Approach the kids, gain his trust. And then you can provide what he needs because then he won’t feel threatened.”
“She really knows her kids,” said Skoff Principal Laura Noon.
“She embraces them,” added Assistant Principal Cheryl Lockard. “She’s amazing.”
Escobedo admits there were times in her 10-year career with Valley View that she was frustrated by the lack of involvement of many parents whose children were in the bilingual program.
“Parent involvement is crucial,” the Bolingbrook resident said. “But after a while I realized parents aren’t helping their kids not because they don’t want to. It’s because they don’t have the time. It’s because they’re overwhelmed with everything a child needs to learn.”
Plus, she added, the culture in their home countries is vastly different, especially in her native Mexico where parents put all their trust in the schools to teach their kids. There is no need for them to get involved in their children’s education.
“I asked myself how do I approach them to change that? What can I do to make my parents comfortable in my classroom?” Miss Escobedo said.
The answer, she has discovered, is simply to talk with them…a lot…in their own language. Invite them to school as often as possible.
“When we get together, I bring vocabulary words in Spanish and compare them to English. They’re learning the same concepts as their kids in both languages,” she said. “And it’s not only that they’re coming, but they’re communicating among themselves. They’re getting to know each other. It helps them feel comfortable coming to school.
“I want them to feel like they belong,” she added. “They have kids here. They’re a part of this community. We can all do it together.”
Escobedo was instrumental in Skoff providing a bus for parents to travel to parent-teacher conferences earlier this month. And when it comes to blending new reading strategies into the curriculum, she is second to none, according to her principals.
“She never asks us what are you going to do to help me?” Noon said. “She figures it out for herself and then helps us figure out what we should be doing elsewhere to help other kids.”
“It’s constantly asking how can I do this? What else can I do?” Miss Escobedo said. “If I fail one of my kids, I fail their parents and I fail my community.”