By Kelsy Been
Roaring Fork Schools  

The Roaring Fork Schools are excited to announce that Carbondale Middle School’s Mary Hernandez was awarded English as a Second Language Teacher of the Year by the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education (CABE). This award recognizes leaders, outstanding teachers, and advocates for bilingualism, biculturalism, and biliteracy who play active and useful roles in their communities, as well as in their schools, and have a proven ability to inspire Emerging Bilingual students of various backgrounds to excel. Amy Fairbanks, the district’s Director of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education, who nominated Hernandez for the award says, “This award was made for Mary.”

Hernandez has been with the district and at CMS for ten years. She grew up in Denver and was attracted to teaching at an early age. While preparing for her secondary English teacher licensing, she was inspired to study Spanish and Latin American culture along with wider interracial, social, and cultural issues. And the Roaring Fork Schools community is lucky for it.

Carbondale Middle School Principal Jennifer Lamont wrote a letter of recommendation for Hernandez that said, “She always keeps the students’ best interests in mind and approaches teachers with openness and flexibility … We are blessed to have her on our team.”

Fairbanks’ nomination describes her incredible contributions to the educational experience of linguistically diverse students. “Mary is a phenomenal teacher. Her technique and style are a perfect match for emerging bilingual students. She gives teaching her whole heart.” Fairbanks offers a vivid example of Mary’s above-and-beyond work ethic: three years ago, Mary created Literacy-Based ELD (English Language Development) units particularly geared towards newcomers, which were then adopted district-wide and served as a platform for future units that were created collaboratively. Fairbanks describes Hernandez as being a generous educator who is always willing to share information and resources. When asked about her teaching philosophy or approach, Hernandez responded, “I think that collaboration is really the lifeblood of the teaching profession.”

While Mary is reluctant to take any individual credit, those around her highly value her contributions. “Mary’s a leader: she is at the forefront of using research-based methods. It shows with the growth in language development that her students have gained,” Fairbanks explained.

When asked about her teaching philosophy and approach, Hernandez points back to her own struggles in learning a second language and navigating a foreign culture as shaping her educational perspective and empathetic approach to her students. “I love teaching and working with all students, but my passion lies in working with newcomer emerging bilingual learners. ( They capture my adoration and highest respect as they tackle the challenges of acquiring a new language, culture, and academic content,” Hernandez explained.

Both Lamont and Fairbanks were advocates of Hernandez for this award. “Her proven ability with students, her exemplary skills as a teacher, and the respect she has earned in our community and the Roaring Fork School District make her a strong candidate for this award,” Lamont said.

And Fairbanks stated simply, “I couldn’t think of someone more deserving than Mary for this recognition.”

Hernandez will be honored along with others who have contributed significantly to the education of Colorado’s Emerging Bilingual Students at the CABE 2017 Awards Gala in Denver on September 20, 2017.

This award is the latest exciting highlight demonstrating the Roaring Fork Schools’ support of biliteracy and bilingual education. In March 2017, the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education adopted the Seal of Biliteracy and Pathway Awards. In April 2017, a CMS student, was given the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education Spotlight Award.