“It really helps that I’m bilingual.”
Maria Preciado is a Teacher’s Assistant at Sara Coughlin Elementary School in Pacoima. She’s worked for the District for a total of about 11 years while going to school to become a Teacher.
“Eventually, I want to teach Kindergarten or First Grade,” says Maria. “I was inspired by my kindergarten teacher at Gridley Elementary in San Fernando. I loved going to school when I was a little girl and it was all because of her. She made learning fun for us. She’d greet each of us by name every morning. She made sure we knew how important it was that we were there in her classroom. I’ve wanted to be a teacher ever since.”
Before she became a citizen last year, Maria was a “Dreamer.” Although an older sister was born here, she was born in Mexico and moved to the states when she was two. Her father always pushed her to go to college, first in computer drafting at a technical college, then back to her original dream at California State University, Northridge, where she received her B.A.
Maria wishes that LAUSD still offered its full Career Ladder program for T.A.s trying to get their teaching credential. She needs the test preparation assistance that they used to offer.
In the meantime, Maria loves what she does. She notices that even though she’s the one helping the children learn, a day never goes by when she doesn’t learn something, too, about how to help the children develop.
“We have this one little girl who started the year very shy. She barely interacted with the other children. It really helps that I’m bilingual, though, because I can get her to laugh—and when I speak Spanish, I can see her start to feel more comfortable. It sort of breaks down the barrier to English because once a child feels comfortable, they will start to use their second language. I just start using little words here and there. The other day it was so fun to see her being expressive during some imaginative playtime where they act out parts. She seemed confident and was using English saying little things like ‘I like your hair’ and ‘you are my friend’—I mean, it’s a little choppy, but she’s making herself understood in English. I thought to myself ‘wow, this little girl is getting somewhere!’”