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Inside PGCPS

Conversations on Culture: Q&A with Laura Guzman, Dual Language Program Coordinator at Capitol Heights ES

Conversations on Culture: Q&A with Laura Guzman, Dual Language Program Coordinator at Capitol Heights ES

  • Inside PGCPS |
  • Team PGCPS |
  • September 28, 2018

Meet Laura Guzman, Coordinator for the dual language program  at Capitol Heights Elementary School (CHES). Learn about how Ms. Guzman landed in the right place at the right time to put her expertise and love of diversity to work at CHES— a school with a quickly diversifying student body in a predominantly African American community.

Q. Tell us about your background and heritage.

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and first traveled to mainland United States as a college  exchange student. I returned to Puerto Rico to complete my college degree in sociology and anthropology. I then lived in Mexico City for ten years before moving back to Puerto Rico. It was at this point that I transitioned into a career in education as a certified Spanish teacher and also into teaching history and social studies.

Q. What attracted you to sociology and anthropology and how did that translate into a career in education?

Sociology and anthropology both look at relationships, societies and cultures. I like diversity. I don’t ever see myself living in a place where everyone is the same. To make connections with people you have to learn about the culture. I come from a family of teachers, including my two sisters, aunt and uncle. When my daughter was born and I began teaching her I recognized my gift as an educator. I vowed to try teaching for one year and loved it. Here I am today.

Q. PGCPS has a fast-growing Hispanic population. Have you noticed a change in your time as a teacher here?

This is my fifth year at CHES, and I can definitely see change in motion. My first year here there were just two Latino families and I was the only Latino teacher. This year we have 20 Latino families. There is also more diversity amongst staff, which I attribute to efforts of our Principal Nina Lattimore who is bringing in teachers to address the diversity. Now, we have staff from Puerto Rico, Spain, Guyana, the Philippines and Jamaica. Just this year we have three new teachers from Puerto Rico teaching dual language math and science and reading centers in Spanish. You can see more diversity all around.

Q. Can you explain what the dual-language concept is and how it benefits students?

In the model we use here at CHES, students from Kindergarten through third grade get science and math instruction in Spanish. Dual language gives equal emphasis to English and non-English language speakers and both get to learn another language. Parents and students sometimes have a hard time seeing the benefit of this now, but they will see it in the future. Right now in Europe, 90% of students are learning another language. We will be behind if we don’t adapt. Speaking more than one language is personally and professionally beneficial.