When Aniza Ortiz enrolled her son in kindergarten this school year, like most kids his age he didn’t know how to read or write.
Months later, Jose can do both — in not one language, but two.
The 6-year-old, who grew up in an English-only household, can now transition effortlessly between English and Spanish, something his mother attributes to Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence teacher Georgina Georgelos.
The Educational Enrichment Foundation is recognizing the efforts by Georgelos, who leads a dual-language classroom, with the Evelyn Jay Excellence in Education Award.
The award honors pre-K through third-grade educators who inspire in children a lifelong love of reading through innovative practices. The award comes with $1,500 and an extra $600 for reading supplies.
Erika Mercado, mother of another McCorkle kindergartner, credits Georgelos for the growth she has seen in her child, Erik, 5.
“My son is doing outstanding and has exceeded our expectations,” she said. “The love for reading he has is unbelievable. For that, I have Ms. Georgelos to thank.”
In Georgelos’ classroom, it’s not uncommon to find students singing to themselves as they work — not songs heard on pop radio stations, but songs Georgelos has taught them that incorporate key lessons.
“Her way of mixing songs, reading and involving music with writing drives a demanding yet positive response from all students,” said Ortiz, who added that Georgelos’ passion for teaching allows her to connect with students on another level and make any subject intriguing.
Though Georgelos is new to the southwest-side school, her desire to become proficient in the dual-language model is commendable, said McCorkle Principal Sandra Thiffault.
“Mrs. Georgelos is passionate about her work, and her desire for student success is evident,” Thiffault said. “Her students are learning not only kindergarten curriculum but Spanish as a second language.”
While Georgelos puts in long hours preparing for class, she’s always smiling and welcoming, putting her students first, Thiffault said.
Two more Tucsonans recognized
Two other TUSD teachers — Marguerite Samples of Dunham Elementary and Sabrina Navarrete-Camacho of Hollinger K-8 — were given honorable mention awards as part of the Evelyn Jay Excellence in Education program. Each received $750 plus the $600 for classroom reading supplies.
The Educational Enrichment Foundation works to support students and teachers at Tucson Unified schools through grants, scholarships, professional development programs and community activities. Find out more at eeftucson.org online.