Photos by Kelly Presnell
Davis Bilingual Elementary
Anna Rowland draws an
on an overhead projector as
teacher Elizabeth Rodriguez-Quihuis
goes over lessons with the
rest of her class.
Rodriguez-Quihuis was among
21 Davis honorees.
Bilingual school's staff honored
21 educators share in award from UA alums
Finding an outstanding educator at Davis Bilingual
Elementary Magnet School isn't much of a trick - just knock on any
By Eric Swedlund
The entire teaching staff is being given the
Outstanding Educator Award from the University of Arizona College of
Education Alumni Council. This is the first time the award is being
given to each faculty member of a school, said Jim Driscoll of the
The teachers were notified Monday of the award, which
is intended to recognize innovative educators working in public,
private, parochial or community-education programs.
All 21 teachers graduated from the UA, and without
their dedication and teamwork, the school would not be able to
fulfill its mission, Driscoll said. The teachers essentially build
their own curriculum, translating district lesson plans from English
to Spanish and shepherding students from a kindergarten immersion
program through the full spectrum of subjects.
At the end of fifth grade, the school guarantees all
students are bilingual and biliterate, said Principal Christopher
Six nominating forms and letters were turned in on
behalf of the teachers at Davis, near Interstate 10 and St. Mary's
Nominees must have completed 30 units from the UA or
be UA graduates. Each recipient will receive an engraved plaque and
be invited to take part in other Alumni Council events.
In his nomination letter, Loya wrote that the
teachers "have contributed to the preservation of a highly
innovative dual-language program."
"This is a very additive school. We add to the kids'
repertoire by giving them a second language," he said. "Positive
cross-cultural attitudes really come into play here."
About 80 percent of the students are English speakers
whose parents enroll them at Davis to gain Spanish skills. The
school of 260 students has a waiting list of about 40 for the
incoming kindergarten class next year.
Tucson attorney Carl Piccarreta, who has one daughter
at Davis and one who recently graduated, praised the teachers'
passion and said there is no weak link among the staff members.
"I have never been exposed to a collective group of
educators so dedicated and motivated to their mission as those I
have encountered at Davis," Piccarreta wrote in nominating the
faculty for the award. "At every turn, I have been nothing but
impressed with their ability to maintain focus despite dealing with
parents and children of differing socio-economic background and
Patricia Cruz, a school monitor who also is a Davis
parent, said she's grateful for the future benefits her daughter
would gain by being able to speak two languages.
"I'm very grateful and impressed. I have my daughter
here, and they've really worked hard with her," she said. "I'm just
amazed at some of the things the teachers do for the kids."
Fourth-grade teacher Elizabeth Rodriguez-Quihuis
instructs her children 70 percent in Spanish and 30 percent in
"It's a wonderful experience," Rodriguez-Quihuis
said. "I love Davis, and I love the program here. There should be
other programs like Davis."
An afternoon science lesson about electrical circuits
is delivered mostly in English, with Spanish definitions added, she
said. Many of the district's instructional materials are only in
English, so teachers translate much of it for the pupils.
After leaving Davis, many of the students miss the
bilingual education, but their foundation prepares them well for
future education, Rodriguez-Quihuis said.
"Children are like little sponges," she said. "As
they move on, they'll be bilingual and biliterate, and they'll have
tons of opportunities. I know myself as a bilingual person, I have
Brisa Bergeron, a 10-year-old in Rodriguez-Quihuis'
class, said she is of Mexican descent and thinks it's "really cool"
to have learned Spanish. She's looking forward to middle and high
school, where she can help new students who know only Spanish.
"It's nice to know they get awards for being good
teachers," she said.
In Micaela Campos' second-grade classroom, a lesson
on rain forests lets the students write about all the things they'd
see in a selva tropical - arboles (trees), monos
(monkeys), tarántulas and mariposas (butterflies).
Watching students gain another language during the
course of their schoolwork brings a great sense of accomplishment,
"Our main goal here is the success of the children,"
she said. Former students are "very thankful we gave them the
opportunity to be bilingual."
Students are learning the culture surrounding the
Spanish language as well. For example, 7-year-old Bianca Bryant and
8-year-old Caitlyn Hendricks-Cos-tello have added violin lessons to
their schooling, a key instrument in mariachi ensembles such as the
school's group, Aguilitas de Davis.
"I like her because she helps us learn more," Bianca
said of Campos. "It's cool to learn another language."
Caitlyn is looking forward to being able to go to a
different country and speak to other people.
Since it is a magnet school whose students mostly
speak English as a first language, Davis doesn't fall under the
restrictions of Proposition 203, passed by Arizona voters in 2000.
The proposition ended traditional bilingual education in favor of
Counselor Teresa Toro said the teachers are always
ready to learn, always sharpening their skills and always being
"We're very nurturing," she said. "We look at a
student as a whole person, not just a computer. We look at a student
as a person with a spirit, a heart and a mind. We genuinely do care
about the full growth of a child in mind, body and spirit, and they
know that we care."