Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Annual Teacher of the Year Award 2008

2008-Awardee Felix-Herrera-Beltran_Bundschuh_Sanchez

Felix Herrera
2008 Felix Herrera Wakefield High School, Arlington County, Virginia

Born in El Salvador, Felix Herrera left his family and friends in 1988 at the age of 16 to pursue an education in the U.S. Overcoming language and cultural challenges, he completed high school at Washington Lee in Arlington three years, attended Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics and a master’s in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. While in school, he worked as a teacher assistant in Arlington County Public Schools.

Felix then joined the US Army Reserves. During deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq with the Civil Affairs Corps, he was involved in education initiatives to improve the quality of life in war-torn countries.

Felix returned to the classroom in 2005 and became an elementary school teacher, calling it “his most difficult assignment to date.” The following year, he began teaching English as a Second Language at Wakefield High School and felt he had found his calling. A naturalized U. S. citizen, he meets his students where they are. “I do understand what they are going through, and it helps me to connect with them. I take my responsibility to help these students adjust to life in the U.S. very seriously, and many of them appreciate that investment in their success.” Felix supports and challenges his students in the classroom, with field trips to museums and after-school activities.

“Students can ask me questions that will help them learn their way around, and better adjust to their new home. Maybe it’s my military background, but we take each other seriously. And these kids are just like kids everywhere — they want to be taken seriously, and they want to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Teaching philosophy

  • Education is the great equalizer and a pre-requisite to a healthy society.
  • I encourage students to do two things: to become independent learners by taking initiative and to become life-long learners.
  • I simply live for that moment when the eyes open really wide and it clicks.

Accomplishments

  • Helped create an accelerated literacy block in ESL department
  • Chair-elect of the Teacher Council on Instruction
  • Member Arlington Anti-gang Task Force sub-committee
  • President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (the oldest and largest organization working to advance educational, political and economic interests of US Hispanic/Latino community)

Photo Captions:
Photo 1
Cel Beltran (Board Member) James E. Bundschuh, former president, Marymount University;Felix Herrera, Victoria Sanchez (Board Member)