ESOL student-teacher returns to her K-8 school

Nov 04, 2021
Karen Cordero, courtesy photo

Karen Cordero has lived in Wichita her entire life. Because her family is extremely tight-knit, she didn’t want to move away for college, so Newman University became her top choice.

Cordero, a senior majoring in elementary education and minoring in Spanish, is student teaching at Horace Mann K-8 Dual Language Magnet in Wichita — a school that teaches kindergarten through eighth grade students in both Spanish and English. Cordero attended the school herself when she was growing up.

“My experience as a student at Horace Mann is something I truly value,” she said. “Horace Mann has such a close-knit community, and the love and passion that the teachers have is something I appreciated. I truly felt like I belonged there.”

Teaching where she was once taught

Cordero especially appreciated that Horace Mann valued both of her languages and provided her with opportunities to improve upon both. She said that being back at the school to student teach is “such a cool experience.”

“I was at this school for both elementary and middle school, so in a way it makes me feel like I now have the opportunity to give back to its community,” Cordero said. “I enjoy being there every day and getting the chance to teach in a building that I value so much.”

Things have come even more full circle for Cordero as her cooperating teacher is her former third grade teacher.

Horace Mann K-8 Dual Language Magnet, courtesy photo.
Horace Mann K-8 Dual Language Magnet, courtesy photo.

“It was a little nerve-wracking to step into her classroom and take over her kids,” she said. “I just felt like I needed to make her even more proud, as she played a big role in my education and is definitely someone I look up to.”

Cordero is helping teach math and language arts. Because the school follows a bilingual model, she teaches English to native English speakers and math to both native English speakers and native Spanish speakers.

“Being Hispanic and my first language being Spanish, I always knew I wanted to have the opportunity to work with ESOL students,” Cordero said. “This is actually part of the reason why I decided to go into teaching. As an ESOL student, I think students in our schools don’t always get the opportunity to see teachers who look like them or who truly understand what it’s like to learn two languages at the same time. Researching is a big part of it, but if you haven’t specifically experienced it, it’s hard to connect.”

A future with ESOL

In the future, Cordero hopes to find a full-time teaching job in a school that allows her to work with ESOL students or students with exceptionalities.

Wherever her career takes her, Cordero will reflect on her time at Newman with gratitude. She loves the community the university has provided her with and that she’s been able to develop close relationships with her professors, including Assistant Professor of Spanish Sonja Bontrager, who’s extremely proud of Cordero and where her path has taken her.

Students in our schools don’t always get the opportunity to see teachers who look like them or who truly understand what it’s like to learn two languages at the same time.”

Karen Cordero

“Karen’s decision to student teach at Horace Mann suggests something about the depth of her gratitude, her understanding of the power of bilingual education, and her desire to give back to our local community,” Bontrager said. “By choosing to serve and learn at school that nurtured her intellectually and socially, she honors her parents, teachers, Newman’s School of Education and the goals of bilingual education.”

Bontrager added that Cordero stood out in her Newman Studies Program and Spanish classes and also brought valuable cultural and language insight to class discussions and coursework.

“She is sure to become an excellent teacher who will inspire students to grow academically and socially, and in their own desire to serve others,” Bontrager said. “It gives me joy to think of all the students who will be guided by her example as they build skills to strengthen connections between communities.”

Learn more about ESOL Curriculum and Instruction

In Kansas and throughout the nation, there is a growing need for teachers who can provide instruction and educational support when English is the second language for students.