Region 19 Honors UTEP Alumna as a 2016 Teacher of the Year

Last Updated on September 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Originally published September 30, 2016

By John

UTEP Communications

Dogged preparation and compassion are some of the reasons Marisela Fernandez has been successful during her 22 years in the classroom. Region 19 recently recognized her as its 2016 Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Fernandez is a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Carroll T. Welch Elementary School in the Clint Independent School District. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s in bilingual/special education from The University of Texas at El Paso. She advances to the Texas Teacher of the Year competition Oct. 13 in Austin, Texas.

The El Paso native, who grew up in El Segundo Barrio, has read statistics about students such as hers who are deemed at risk not to graduate from high school because their first language is Spanish. She works hard to defy those odds by maintaining high expectations for herself, her students and their families.

When not teaching, the first-generation college graduate is involved in professional development and mentors fellow teachers and parents. She follows a credo of servant leadership, whether it is leading a district committee or baking cupcakes for a campus bake sale.

“In my classroom, I model compassion,” Fernandez said, adding that she hoped her students would pick up the practice at home and in the community. “By modeling acts of kindness, my students learn that being compassionate to others is important.”

The teacher also is an advocate for older students. For example, she has created curricula and arranged trips to local museums for third-grade students and has organized and chaperoned weeklong trips to Washington, D.C., for the district’s juniors and seniors who come from migrant families.

She said one of the most valuable lessons stressed by her UTEP faculty was that every child deserves an adult who will never give up on them and insists that they do their best. In the same way, Fernandez credited UTEP for teaching her that she could achieve her goals through hard work and determination.

The award-winning teacher said she was grateful to Helen Hammond, Ph.D., and Lawrence Ingalls, Ph.D., associate professors of educational psychology, for being role models for inspirational and motivational educators.

“They set an example that all teachers need to follow,” Fernandez said.