1. What do you do?
I am a first grade dual immersion teacher at Dual Immersion Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah. My school employs a 90/10 immersion model in first grade, so I teach my first-grade class primarily in Spanish, with the other 10% of the school day being English instruction. Although things can get a little crazy with 26 first graders, I make sure students are engaged, learning, and safe and employ best practices in my teaching of the core curriculum and second language acquisition.
2. What's the coolest part of your job?
Every day and every student is different! I love the little moments where you connect with a student or the class and share something special. I still have prior students who regularly come back to see me. The genuine love and affection we manage to create in our classroom culture is one of my favorite parts of teaching. In their limited experience, students call me "the best teacher ever," and, in turn, I remember each one of the little faces I have taught.
3. Why are you passionate about it?
Although it can undoubtedly be a tough profession, teaching is a job where you can really make a difference. I love seeing my students' growth throughout the school year, both academically and in other ways. The vast majority of my students enter first grade well below where they should be, and through careful instruction and hard work, we are able to make above-average progress in their learning. I love teaching them to "grow their brains," as we call it.
It is also very special to me to be able to teach in Spanish. My family is Mexican, and I grew up in predominantly white spaces where being culturally Mexican or speaking Spanish was not necessarily celebrated. Knowing a second language and being able to recognize and understand different people and cultures are important skills. I strive to make sure my students understand that and that they feel that their differences are to be celebrated. Knowing more about the backgrounds they come from, I also make sure to give my students every opportunity I can.
4. Which skills from Georgia Tech and your IAC degree have helped you be successful in this career?
Though I spoke Spanish before coming to Tech, I honed my Spanish skills there through Spanish classes and study abroad and learned more academic language and skills I had previously not been exposed to. Continuing to learn French at Tech also helped me know and experience the language acquisition journey. Both of these skills from Ivan Allen's School of Modern Languages have helped me in my career.
Additionally, I love bringing some of my knowledge or experiences from Georgia Tech in STEM to my classroom. Time permitting, I love to expand on our curriculum and have taught coding, the scientific method, and critical thinking skills and more to my students!
5. What’s your #1 tip for students and alumni interested in your field?
For current students, get involved with the pre-teaching pathway of Georgia Tech! For alumni, look for alternative routes to teaching through your state's board of education website. For both, make sure you get into a school in whatever capacity, be it as a sub, a volunteer, or an aide to get a feel for what you will be doing and for the school culture. Although very rewarding, teaching can be tough so just make sure it is something you really want to do before taking the plunge.
Daniela Galvez Sghiatti is the 2023 School of Modern Languages Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Meet more of our Distinguished Alumni Award winners!