Elizabeth Valenzuela has been teaching for five years, three at Wheeler Elementary. She teaches the fifth-grade GATE class.
Valenzuela is originally from Sonora, Mexico. She came to the United States when she was 10 years old. She recalls, “I didn’t really like school when I was in elementary. I felt left out because of the language barrier.”
She says that experience helps inspire her to really connect with her students. Valenzuela was nominated by student Eduardo.
“She gives me extra time on my projects if I need it. She makes school fun. I used to hate school but now I love school,” writes Eduardo. He adds, “She makes school fly by—at the end of the day I feel like I’ve been at school for five minutes and I never want to go home. Ms. V is just the best.”
Valenzuela studied child psychology before she decided to pursue teaching as a career. “I have always been interested in how the brain works, especially in children, and in child development,” she explains.
She worries that in today’s society “we have such high expectations for children, unrealistic expectations.” She encourages her students to follow their interests, keep a growth mindset and be creative.
Valenzuela says her GATE students are great at self direction. She provides the materials, and they explore topics and make connections. “I love that I’m able to pose a question, and they (respond with enthusiasm) and creativity,” she says. “As an adult, our creativity spark gets diminished over the years.”
The sciences are very creative, she believes, as ingenuity can be found in making things or in solving problems.
Valenzuela has her own creative spark. She was a photographer for a long time, she explains. She worked in a studio, and at weddings and fashion events.
These days, Valenzuela likes to ski, climb, do yoga and meditate. She also loves to travel. She has a goal to visit every National Park. She has been to 11 so far, and says her favorite one, to date, is Joshua Tree National Park in California.
The reason she likes Joshua Tree is “because it looks so alien—like you’re on Mars.”
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