Alumna named Oregon Teacher of the Year
October 17, 2011
Elena Garcia-Velasco M.A.T. ’97, a Spanish teacher at Portland’s Roosevelt High School, has received the state’s highest honor for teaching—the 2011-12 Oregon Teacher of the Year award. Since 1995, six Lewis & Clark alumni have received this honor.
State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo presented the award at a ceremony on October 13 and called Garcia-Velasco “a passionate and dedicated educator with a deep commitment to equity, closing the academic achievement gap, and helping all of her students achieve at high levels.”
A native of Spain, Garcia-Velasco arrived in the United States speaking little English. She had no intention of becoming a teacher. But as she learned the language herself, she passed on her knowledge of Spanish to others, gradually embracing a role as a full-time Spanish teacher.
According to an article in The Oregonian, Garcia-Velasco’s father, a lawyer for Spain’s education ministry, suggested that she pick the top graduate program. She enrolled at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling and, years later, still remembers what her professors said on her first day.
“They told us, ‘Teaching is the most important job in the world. We want you to be agents of transformation,’” Garcia-Velasco said. “Working at Roosevelt, you get to breathe that.”
In May 2012, Garcia-Velasco traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with leaders from the U.S. Department of Education and discuss ways to elevate the teaching profession. Teachers were asked to describe how they lead their profession from the classroom. Garcia-Velasco said, “I teach to change the script.”