Bilingual group honors SMCC student
Arizona Republic
March 10, 2008


Editor's note: This article was submitted by Rob Price, director of marketing and public relations at South Mountain Community College. Send your education news to lori

Whether her students call her "schoolteacher" or "maestra de escuela," Josie Guillen will be ready with all the answers to their questions - in either language.

The South Mountain Community College teacher-education student has achieved such proficiency in communicating with students in English and Spanish that she was this year named Para Educator of the Year by the National Association for Bilingual Education.
Guillen was presented with the award in February at the group's national conference in Tampa. The SMCC student needs only two more classes to complete her associate's degree in elementary education.

Guillen began working as a para educator in the Fowler Elementary School District in west Phoenix nine years ago.

"I've always loved working in a school setting and being around children," she says.

According to Eufemia Amabisca, one of her instructors, Guillen is a very focused student.

"I was amazed how she could balance being a student, a mom, and hold a full-time job and still participate in all of her extracurricular activities," Amabisca says.

One reason for Guillen's success is that she still considers herself a second-language learner.

"I've always felt this helps me relate to the students, especially when I can share my own learning experiences with them," she says.

Guillen's ambition is to become an elementary-school educator, and she hopes to one day teach in a first- or second-grade classroom. Upon graduation from SMCC, she plans to enter Arizona State University's teacher-education program in spring 2009.

"I really try to emphasize to all my students the importance of working hard to achieve their goals, and the need for a strong education," Guillen says.

She is the mother of three: daughters Aledys, 15, and Biana, 13, and son Jovanni, 12.

"It was hard learning to juggle my responsibilities as a teacher, mother and student, but I was truly blessed to have such encouragement and support from my husband, family and friends," she says.

SMCC's award-winning Dynamic Learning teacher-education program has seen many of its students go on to teaching careers in the Phoenix area, many in and around the neighborhoods in which they themselves grew up.

The program is distinguished by its hands-on, cohort learning style. Groups of students enter the program together and remain together throughout the two-year degree process.