STEM ECHS teacher wins Barnes & Noble contest

STEM ECHS teacher wins Barnes & Noble contest
Posted on 04/20/2018

When STEM Early College High School student Esmeralda Castillo walked into Hilda Garcia’s classroom, she was extremely nervous about taking a Spanish class for the first time. However, Garcia immediately made her feel welcomed and inspired.

Her teacher’s passion and dedication motivated Esmeralda to enter the Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher Contest, where she wrote an essay expressing her gratitude towards “La Profe” and how she has impacted her life.  

Esmeralda wrote, “You created an environment where all your students felt they could learn. I always finished each assignment wanting to know more about this fun, new foreign language. My absolute favorite part of being in your class was the confidence you inspired in others. Whenever you asked us to read aloud en español, you were understanding when we struggled and never made us feel embarrassed.

“Growing up, I didn't speak Spanish and, in a way, I always felt ashamed of calling myself Latina for not knowing the language of my ancestors. Thanks to you, I was able to visit my grandmother and have a conversation with her in the language she grew up with. Thanks to you, I began to understand and appreciate my Hispanic heritage without feeling like an outsider.

“Profe, you didn't just teach me what was required to graduate, you gave me un regalo. The gift of respecting new traditions, the gift of having an open mind and the gift of loving to learn. You are much more than a teacher to me, you're one of my strongest role models. Even outside of class, you strive to be a part of your student's lives and recognize that we are more than just a grade or an essay. You are compassionate, honest and attentive.

“For the past three years, you have played a significant role in being a part of my support system, being one of my biggest fans and more importantly, my mentor. Profe, thank you for being by my side throughout the ups and downs of high school life. Thank you for allowing me to grow as a student and as a young woman. I am eternally blessed to have met you and appreciate all you do for your students.”

Esmeralda’s heartfelt letter won the contest at the Barnes & Noble store located at 321 NW Loop 410; and to celebrate, a special ceremony took place on April 19. Esmeralda had the opportunity to read her letter to Garcia, who was surrounded by family, friends and colleagues. Then, Garcia and Esmeralda both received an award acknowledging their achievement.

Garcia was brought to tears after learning the news.

“Esmeralda is one of our best students, and to have a student who I admire, admire me is really touching and rewarding. I’ve been teaching for 21 years all together, three years here at STEM, a brand new school, and to have students like Esmi is gratifying all together,” Garcia said. “As a Harlandale HS graduate myself, I’m at home, where I need to be, with the kids that I know I can relate to and understand because I went through this school district. It really is a blessing.”

Esmeralda’s letter will now compete against the district, regional and national level for a chance to win up to $10,000.

Congratulations, “Profe” and Esmeralda!  

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