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Three prospective Spanish teachers win scholarships

by Merrie Leininger

Three Douglas County Spanish teachers received $1,000 each to continue their education, continuing a scholarship program the school district hopes will benefit students as much as teachers.

Classified personnel director Norma Villasenior told the Douglas County School Board Tuesday the program, currently sponsored by the Smallwood Foundation, also encourages diversity by providing scholarships to Douglas County employees and students who come from diverse backgrounds and who want to become licensed teachers.

The scholarship has been offered since 1996 and this year Maria Galicia, Gloria Porath and Paula Ortiz were chosen from the seven who applied.

n Sharing the language. Paula Ortiz has been a Spanish assistant at C.C. Meneley Elementary school for five years. She has a degree in Spanish from the University of Oregon and studied Spanish in Mexico, but must get her teaching credential in order to do what she dreams – teach at the elementary and high school levels.

“I love teaching and working with kids and I love sharing another culture and language with them,” Ortiz said. “It’s what I know and enjoy doing. I think it’s important for them to learn another language. While they are doing that, they also learn things about their own language and another culture.”

Ortiz, who has two children in the school district, Mark, a sophomore at Douglas High School and Andrew, a 6th grader at Scarselli Elementary School, has been attending Sierra Nevada College for a few years already. The scholarship allowed her to return after a short break.

“It is very expensive. It is $750 for the three-credit class I am in now, so yes, I’ll take the money,” she said, laughing.

n Already a teacher. Maria Galicia is originally from Mexico, where she was a teacher. Since moving to the Carson Valley 17 years ago, she has volunteered or worked in Douglas’ classrooms.

“I’ve been volunteering since my kids were in kindergarten,” Galicia said.

John is now a senior at DHS and Kathleen is in the 9th grade at Carson Valley Middle School

Galicia said she started taking classes at Western Nevada Community College to learn English. She piloted the Spanish program at Scarselli and has been teaching there for almost seven years.

“With these classes, I wanted to have my substitute teacher license first and then from there I will see if I can take the other classes,” Galicia said. “I have been in class every semester for four semesters.”

Galicia missed the presentation of the awards at the school board meeting because she was in class.

“I have to take a quiz in class. I like to get all As. I don’t want to miss any of the points,” she said.

n Three-time winner. Gloria Porath has won the scholarship twice already. It is helping pay her way through WNCC and soon, the University of Nevada, Reno.

“UNR is real expensive. I don’t think I could make it without that help. It is hard,” she said.

Porath is originally from Columbia and has lived here for 10 years.

She has been the Spanish assistant at Pinon Hills Elementary School for four years. She has a 3.8 GPA and recently received her AA degree after four years at WNCC.

“I want to be a Spanish or ESL teacher, even both,” Porath said. “I enjoy being around kids and it is something I always wanted to do. It is easy for me. I love to teach people Spanish. I feel so good when I know they are learning my language. It’s important, I think. We get a lot of Spanish people around here. When (my students) grow up and travel, they will need to know what to say in a restaurant or in an airport.”