BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Last year, we introduced you to a local teacher who earned one of the two Fulbright scholarships awarded in California. Now, he’s being honored once again.
Emiliano Rios, otherwise known as Mr. Rios to his students, has been selected as one of the teachers to represent the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District as Teacher Of The Year. He applied for three grants last year, including Columbia University for a writing grant, Monterey Bay Aquarium for their teacher institute and Fulbright for their global classrooms program.
His goal was to bring experiences that go beyond the classroom to his students. He succeeded and his hard work did not go unnoticed.
Teacher of the Year is a prestigious honor educators across the country aspire to achieve. Emiliano Rios is one of 51 teachers in the Panama-Buena Vista School District who received this award. Now, he’s going for the gold star of teaching awards — County Teacher of the Year, and then hopefully California Teacher of the Year.
When the pandemic began impacting in-person teaching, Rios applied for three grants to help bring new ways of education to his students.
“Each time I applied for a grant or scholarship, typically they will ask for a letter of recommendation and after a while, she, my principal Katrina Wilson, started picking up and saying ‘hey Rios how are all these grants going?’ And I think she thought I’m going to win one and when I said I’m winning them all, she was really proud and she said ‘way to go above and beyond the call of duty, of not just to teach but to improve your teaching as a lifelong learner,'” Rios said.
Rios’s motivation to be a lifelong learner comes from his childhood. He migrated to the U.S. when he was 5 years old, a dreamer. 32 years later, he keeps that dream alive through art and shares it with his students.
“Art is a language that transmits feelings and values and dreams and I know even though there are no words involved it transcends borders and it can transcend walls,” he said.
“What I try to teach my students is that you don’t have to even consider yourself an artist to be creative!” he said. “In other words, when I see my kindergartners taking their first steps to pick up a pencil and scribble and write, I love that because it means they are trying to make sense of the world.”
Rios says oftentimes he felt he was trying to make sense of two parallel worlds, at school speaking and learning in English and at home only speaking Spanish. But his parents and family were his biggest supporters with a “si se puede” mindset.
“I think my grandma is my biggest influence because she is the one that brought me from Mexico to the United States. She passed away one year later too after bringing me to the United States,” he said. “But I want to honor my Abuelita Irene and my Dad Froylan by telling their story and letting our kids know that no matter what you look like, or where you come from or what language you speak, dream big and dream often.”
Rios says his parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to school but they always instilled in him “you don’t have to know someone in education to be educated.” At the end of the day, he teaches this important life lesson to his students by making them feel like they can accomplish anything and providing a creative learning environment.