Leticia Rosales didn’t even have teaching on her mind when mapping out her career goals years ago, but now she’s proven to be one of the best in the field.
Rosales, a Spratling Middle School teacher in Keyes, has been selected as a 2018 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year Finalist, rewarding the educator for a career that has focused on making students feel like family.
“This came as a surprise and I was shocked because I don’t feel like I’m anything special,” said Rosales. “All of my students are excited about it.”
Teachers were nominated by their principals and finalists were selected from 79 nominees representing 16 school districts in Stanislaus County. A selection committee, comprised of local Rotarians and educators, narrowed the nominations through a paper screening process and then visited the classrooms of 24 semi-finalists before narrowing the number down to 12.
Those who visit Rosales’ classroom, where she teaches seventh grade language arts, math and English language development, will find she has a love for “Lilo & Stitch” and has the little, blue alien posted all over her room.
“Any new student I have, I tell them, ‘We’re all family,’” said Rosales, pointing out the popular phrase from the Disney cartoon that states, “Ohana is family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.
“I try to bring that mindset into the classroom,” she said.
Rosales originally didn’t want to be a teacher, she said, and had her sights set on becoming a Certified Public Accountant. After taking a job as a substitute teacher, however, she discovered her true calling.
“I started working with kids and I really enjoyed it after months of subbing,” she said. “So, I switched my major to liberal studies.”
This is Rosales’ 12th year teaching, and third year teaching in Keyes Union School District, she said, which is the same district she attended grades K-8. Her own personal experience at the same school she teaches at has helped her to become closer with students.
“It helps build a stronger bond because they realize I’m from here and I understand how our community works,” she said.
Rosales’ history in Keyes allows her to know things about the community, she added, like that it has a high population of Spanish speakers. During her time at Spratling, she has worked to develop meetings for Spanish speaking parents, allowing them to communicate with their children’s teachers and administration in a comfortable environment.
“It’s a demographic we don’t reach out to enough, so we just want to keep them up to par with topics their kids are covering in school,” said Rosales. “Parents need to be involved, and sometimes they don’t have that outlet.
“I want the parents and students to realize we’re all on the same page. We’re all a family.”
The Teacher of the Year will be announced May 1, and whether or not Rosales is selected, she wants her students to know one thing.
“They come from the same background I came from, and if they don’t want to continue in that same system I want to help them know that there are options,” she said. “You can easily have whatever you would like, but you have to work for it.”