In front of crystal apple award On February 10, Salem Reporter is profiling several educators nominated for 2023. Awards are presented by the McLaran Leadership Foundation and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce at the Salem Convention Center. Tickets are sold out.
Dennise Pozos Gonzalez hadn’t heard of Salem when she got the call to move here.
She had been teaching in Guadalajara, Mexico for about 5 years and was considering moving to the United States through the Mexican government’s program for teachers.
Her first call was from a recruiter for the Salem Kaiser School District, who wanted a bilingual teacher who could cover social studies and Spanish literature.
Pozos did her research.
“It looked so pretty,” she said of the city. And it met her one more requirement. That’s what Costco was.
She started teaching at West Salem High School in 2016. This, as her fourth teacher in about the same number of years, has taken on dual-language duties.
“As a dual language teacher, you don’t just teach, you translate everything. So many teachers found it really difficult,” she said.
But for her, it was a vocation.
Now 38, she is the Head of Social Studies and is known among her peers for delivering engaging lessons and putting a lot of effort into translating coursework. Her passion and kindness are also known by her students.
“Every interaction with Pozos is genuine. She’s a warm-hearted soul to be around, spreading positivity and love wherever she goes,” wrote the former student at the Crystal Apple nomination.
Her classes are for students who have taken courses in both Spanish and English since the early grades of elementary school and who have attended the district’s dual language program. She teaches both history and literature in Spanish and she often has to translate her own material.
“Her lessons still impress me with her admirable incorporation of project-based learning and academic rigor,” writes colleague Jaela Dinsmore in her nomination. ‘s freshman U.S. History class promotes simulations in which students move through different aspects of the Industrial Revolution, all outcomes based on defined roles, behaviors, and key historical processes that enable students to explore the era. It helps us understand the cause and effect of
Pozos studied communications at university and started his career as a broadcast journalist for Televisa, a Mexican television station.
But she said working as a journalist in Mexico in the late 2000s and early 2010s proved to be too much of a security risk, and she couldn’t always enjoy weekends and holidays. After she lost her clerical job at college, remembering that she was told she would make a good teacher, she went to the high school across the street and offered her services to teach history and Spanish literature.
“About two weeks later, they called me and said, ‘My teacher just retired. I need someone right away.’ That’s how I started, and I became a teacher by accident,” she said. said.
The former student who helped nominate Pozos for the award is working to ensure that his classroom welcomes non-binary students, and is gendered in language that assigns masculine or feminine gender to inanimate objects, adjectives, and other parts of speech. He said he researches and teaches students about neutral alternatives. .
Pozos initially resisted the evolution of the language, including using the vowel “e” as a neutral alternative to ending Spanish words with the masculine “o” and feminine “a”. He said he was.
“Languages evolve with people. Languages must evolve because they die without people speaking them,” she said. “A lot of teachers say to me, ‘Oh, it could be a phase,’ so I’m like, ‘Well, if it’s a phase, it’ll pass. I was there to support them.”
She said that her students, including a former Mexican student she kept in touch with, who were nonbinary or transgender, helped educate her and encouraged her to study it further. Her priority is to make her students feel welcome in her class.
“They are learning Spanish and they own not just the language, but the whole identity of being bilingual. I did,” she said.
Ms. Pozos, who now has a green card, recently purchased a home in Salem that she shares with a corgi-schnauzer mix named Nugget, whom she brought over from Mexico.
“I came here and had the opportunity to teach these wonderful kids and grow professionally and personally. I mean, it’s a crazy American dream,” she said with a smile.
Please contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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