This week’s Homegrown Hero is Gabriela Calderón-Espinal, Social Studies/ENL Teacher at Bay Shore High School. This past week we caught up with her to know more about her story, and what she has experienced since the pandemic started. We thank Gabriela for all her efforts and for inspiring our club with her acts.
Tell me about your career and what inspires you every day?
I teach global history to a diverse group of students. Most of my classes are recent immigrant students who are learning English as another language. My students inspire me everyday. Their resilience is nothing less than admirable.
How much have your job duties changed since the pandemic started?
When the pandemic started, I went into emergency mode. I knew that immigrant communities and people of color would be affected the most. I focused on checking in on my students and their families on a weekly basis. I also made sure to give my students space during our virtual sessions to let them express their feelings and concerns. It was such a scary time for all of us, but I was lucky to have my kiddos on the other side of the screen.
What’s the biggest lesson/s you’ve learned during this time period?
This pandemic solidified the importance of connecting with students on a deeper level than just assessments and content. It was because of the sincere conversations and funny moments in the classroom prior to the shut down that my students felt they could trust me during this unprecedented time. I learned that investing time in social-emotional learning is necessary in order to have a welcoming, trusting and productive classroom.