Two students who earned their English as a Second Language teaching certification from Newman University’s School of Education were selected as Teachers of the Year in their Kansas school districts.
Patricia Lujan, ’17, ’20, was selected as Elementary Teacher of the Year in Ulysses, and Ismael Carrillo ’20 was selected as Secondary Teacher of the Year in Liberal, where he works in USD 480.
When Carrillo was notified of his award, he teared up.
“I joke a lot about how I can finally retire,” he said. “But really, now that I achieved this one goal, it’s time to achieve the next one.”
Some of Carrillo’s aspirations are to work on his National Board certification, as well as pursue a master’s degree in math education.
“I just want to keep getting better for my students,” he said.
In fact, that’s part of the reason Carrillo, a first-generation Mexican American, initially got into teaching.
“I myself was an ESOL student so when an opportunity came to get my ESOL certification so I can better serve students like me, I took that opportunity and attended Newman,” he explained. “I truly feel like the classes at Newman helped me, not just with ESOL students, but all my students. From my honors geometry students to my general math students, skills and information I learned I have truly put to use in my classes that helped me so much.”
Lujan and Carillo aren’t the only Newman alumni recognized for their classroom efforts.
Taylor Altendorf, a 2020 elementary education graduate, was a runner-up for Wichita Public Schools’ New Teacher of the Year Award.
Molly Brown, who earned her teaching certificate from Newman in 2008, received Great Bend’s USD 428 Elementary Teacher of the Year award. Brown, a third grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School, first earned a degree in dance from The University of Kansas and planned to become a professional dancer.
While teaching dance classes to youth in Los Angeles, though, she discovered her true passion: teaching.
She returned to Kansas and began classes for her teaching certificate at Newman while working as an English language teaching assistant at Park Elementary School. After earning the certificate, she taught in Hoisington for a year, followed by 10 years at Hutchinson and now in Great Bend.
Brown also shares her passion with new and aspiring teachers through the USD 428 Mentor Program. Additionally, she serves on the Eisenhower Elementary Site Council, as secretary for the school’s PTO and as vice president for Great Bend’s National Education Association.
A calling for education
Placing students in Kansas classrooms — regardless of whether they be in Independence, Parsons, Ark City, Wellington, Wichita, Dodge City, Garden City or Liberal — is a selective process that requires a team approach from faculty. The smaller program size at Newman gives students the comfort of knowing they can turn to any one of their university supervisors if they are struggling or in need of support.
“With programs that are super large, students may not even know or have met their university supervisor,” said Jessica Bird, interim dean of the School of Education and Social Work. “We really focus on the relationships and want to see our students succeed.”
Bird believes it’s not just the quality of the Newman education program that stands apart — it’s the students.
“I truly feel like our students feel called to the profession,” she said. “When you have a calling like that, you’re more passionate, invested and you’re more engaged. You’re ready to make a positive difference.”
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