Spending countless hours coaching and instructing on campuses from early childhood to high school affords one of the best experiences a colleague can have – meeting and learning from other exceptional educators. I was honored to have that opportunity years ago when I met bilingual educator, Ms. Liliana Torres. She taught me one of the greatest lessons I ever learned as a second-grade chairperson when she was on my team – that passion and precision produce outstanding results in the classroom.
As a Spanish language learner myself, I often sat in her room of bilingual 1st and 2nd graders (while she taught in Spanish), endeavoring to keep up with the assignments, directions, and projects assigned to her savvy students. It was then that I considered and realized what life must be like for English Language Learners in regular ed classrooms. Listening and experiencing her instruction heightened my appreciation for cultural richness and deepened my empathy for struggling learners. Today, many of my convictions and admonitions on bilingual education have been shaped by her professional prowess.
Beyond the classroom, Ms. Torres has also embodied a thirst for life and all of its adventures! Traveling the world and capturing its beauty on various canvases as an avid photographer, she has inspired both students and peers because she gave up chasing dreams long ago – now, she catches them. Ms. Torres authentically awakens excitement and discovery in others through her countless journeys and adventures, akin to the one she had in the picture above as she navigated New Zealand. It is an honor and privilege to have worked with her side by side, and I’m proud to announce her as the May 2019 Dreamcatcher. Find out why she’s writing new chapters in her life with incessant fervor by reading her responses below! Congratulations, Ms. Torres!
What do you feel are your personal and/or professional callings?
I believe I have always had a connection with the idea of working with kids, watching them grow and learn, and motivating them while sharing their joy. I decided to become a bilingual teacher because I feel it is very important for students to maintain their native language while learning English effectively. I did not realize how much I love Spanish until I was teaching it. I enjoy being a bilingual teacher because I get to work with students from different backgrounds, and I am gaining new knowledge and appreciation about my native language as I teach my students. One of my favorite parts is also motivating and learning from co-workers. Most recently, my nephew and students have sparked in me a personal interest in Autism.
Through my enjoyment of hiking I found a deep interest in photography. I am by no means an expert photographer, but I simply enjoy taking pictures, including the opportunity to show the beauty of nature that we sometimes take for granted. Additionally, I treasure the beauty of those minor details that often go unnoticed in our everyday lives. Hiking and photography together ignited the idea of traveling alone. My first solo hiking trip was to Arizona, intrigued by the Red Rocks. I didn’t allow the fear of traveling alone to hold me back. That awakened something in me I never realized I’d love! As I traveled alone, I later discovered I was influencing and inspiring others (and close friends) to do the same, and that’s great!
What was the defining moment that compelled you to choose this direction? What cemented your passion?
I’ve always enjoyed being around kids and wanted to be the kind of teacher that inspired others. I think the calling comes from caring for something bigger than myself and understanding that I can contribute to shaping the next generation to believe in themselves and to become kind, grateful, accepting, hard working and responsible adults. We need more of that in our world. I am grateful for all of the experiences I have gained in my career as a bilingual educator.
I am also thankful to have an opportunity to pay it forward because someone was there for me in my early education. With photography, epiphanies came from traveling and hiking. A whole new world opened, and then it turned into art for me. I like to take pictures of nature, architecture, patterns, and things that go unnoticed. My interest in learning more about Autism came from my nephew. His growth, excitement and the way he experiences life is so interesting and such a beautiful thing to share.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am not always comfortable with the spotlight, but I was brave enough to performewith two music bands as a vocalist. My favorite things to watch are in the sky. Judge Judy is my girl! Singing and dancing are my daily stress relievers. I’m afraid of heights, but I love ziplines. Sometimes I get social anxiety. I enjoy doing things on my own too often, but I’m working on balancing my social life!
If you had a catch phrase, what would it be?
Do the things you thought you couldn’t do, prove yourself wrong! Girl be brave. I think nature’s imagination is so much greater than man’s, she’s never going to let us relax. -Richard Feynman
When people see what you’re striving for, what would you want them to keep in mind? What can they do to help this cause?
Go outside, take care of the planet, pay attention to children, they need you now more than ever!! DO NOT LOSE YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE. Being bilingual opens up so many opportunities. It opens up your mind. Don’t doubt yourself, there’s no set thing you are meant to do. There are many, and you must try them. Don’t be afraid to fail. Do not limit yourself to doing only one thing just because you have done it for a long time. Feel the pressure, the anxiety, the tiredness and the uncomfortableness in achieving a goal.
Don’t be afraid to travel alone or abroad. Stay in a hotel, change your career, it doesn’t matter! As a woman, I strongly felt I NEEDED to do these things. If I inspire other women to do the same, that’s great, but the person that I am doing it for is myself. I think I have understood that my personal calling depends on how I identify myself, not limited to a career, a relationship or society. I am still evolving, through the joy, heartbreak, misconceptions, obstacles, fears, love and uncertainty. I am appreciating and being grateful for everything in this life adventure!
To take a glimpse at Liliana’s amazing photography, check out her Instagram page @detailsandviews! You’ll be glad you did.