Position: Kindergarten Teacher
School: Washington Elementary School
School District: Medford School District
City, State: Medford, OR
Gloria Pereyra-Robertson received multiple nominations from various members of her community. The following profile contains text from all nominations.
“Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson is an inspiration as an educator and a friend, as well as an exceptional human being,” said Stephanie Splain, a parent, PTO member, and school/community volunteer. “I have had the unique experience of working with Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson at two different schools as well as being her friend over the years. My son started at Howard Elementary in 2005, and my daughter in 2011. Over the years, I have witnessed Gloria treating children as if they were her own. In fact, one student thought of her as a second mom when he had lost his own. She makes sure every child who comes into her class - whether they are her student or not - gets the tools they need to succeed, not just in school, but in life.”
Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and one of 20 teachers in her family. One can say that teaching is in her blood! One of her first teachers and role models was her father, who immigrated from Mexico after receiving his Green Card for working in the Bracero Program during WWll. Her father taught her perseverance and pride in her native language and Mexican cultural heritage. It was these lessons that he passed on to her, that would eventually help her overcome language barriers and discrimination through her own education and teaching career.
At an early age, she started interpreting for teachers, students, her parents and people she would meet in the community who needed help. This is something you will see her do to this day at school, parent workshops, and in the local community. Her mother taught her the value of learning the English language and having a strong work ethic, which she now shares with her students, student teachers and peers.
In her teen years, Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson would volunteer helping at her younger sister’s school, and as the president of her high school Spanish Club, she collected toys and basic goods for orphans in Tijuana, Mexico. She also volunteered at fundraisers to support her school and was recognized by her teachers as her high school’s alumni of the year.
Unfortunately, on the path to becoming an educator, Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson has come across people who have discriminated against her and her students because of the color of their skin and the language they speak. For example, when she came back from school one day, she told her mother that people were mean and racist to her. Her mother said, “Great, you can go to work with me all day manana.” After she worked all day in the fields, Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson was ready to go back to school.
When these situations happen, it makes her sad for the ignorance of those who can not see the beauty of all people and all languages. She doesn’t let that get in the way of her teaching, however. It is these experiences growing up as a bilingual Mexican-American ELL student that would shape Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson into the most amazingly, incredible, innovative, inclusive, equitable, creative and caring teacher she is today. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but her actions speak volumes.
“Providing all children with a great education, no matter where they come from or what language they speak, can give a family the opportunity to change their socio and economic status for the future in just one generation,” said Pereyra-Robertson. “I know, because my siblings and I are living proof of it!”
This is why you will see Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson doing whatever it takes to provide an equitable and inclusive education to all her students. Why? Because she sees herself in so many of her students, and she wants them to be proud of their cultural heritage, to be accepted for who they are, and not be discriminated against by the labels that are out there today.
Every Christmas, each child in her class gets a Christmas gift. This might be the only gift they receive, as the majority of her students live below poverty level. She has arranged to get shoes for a child who did not have the means to get shoes that fit properly and weren’t falling apart. She has made sure every student in her class had a warm winter jacket, hat and gloves. This year, she arranged for a few to have Christmas trees, umbrellas, beds, heaters and more. Through the last 22 years, she has secured over $60,000 in donations for food, clothes, beds, blankets, space heaters and medical services for her students and families. She believes it takes a village or community to educate a child, which is why she spends time recruiting volunteers and inspiring them to engage in the learning process of all children.
“I have witnessed kids coming in years later to invite her to their graduation, or to talk about important life events such as college, church missions, and engagements,” said Splain. “Some, while in school, want to shadow her for their own benefit of seeing if teaching is the career for them. Students in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade want to give up their recess time to come and help her with whatever she needs. She has made an impact in these children's lives that they take with them everywhere they go.”
There are kids who walk into her class in September knowing nothing. By the time they leave in June, they know so much. Many have caught up with the kids who went to preschool, and some even surpassed them!
Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson has students who speak fluent English, while others only speak Spanish. There are kids who come in that have other native languages, and she takes it upon herself to learn their language to help them and their parent. Many times, she learns from a relative or the Internet and friends. In the last couple of years, she had a child who spoke Samoan and a child who spoke Tagalog. She learned many phrases so she could help these children and made sure each volunteer and teacher assistant had a copy of the words, as well.
Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson always makes time for parents. Many parents are comfortable to approach her, including migrant families. If a parent is struggling at home with their student, she offers ideas and solutions to help. If a family comes to her needing things at home such as food or clothing, she gets a list of current food pantries and clothing rooms. She has members of the community willing to donate to help these families. She makes many of her own worksheets and usually has extras for children to take. For many kids who are struggling, this is a great way for them to get extra practice. If they have a sibling wanting to do work, they can have a few pages, as well.
Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson incorporates art, science and more into the lessons that many times focus only on reading and math. She makes learning fun! She also teaches students songs to sing and takes them around the school to perform for the office, principal, cafeteria, etc. They learn little dances and more. She has gotten shy children to open up and talk when they previously couldn’t.
“I could go on and on expressing my knowledge and gratitude for Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson,” said Splain. “As you can see she is exceptional and has a big heart. She teaches more than just the student, and they learn much more than ABC's and 123's. This is why she’s a LifeChanger in our community!
“I have personally experienced watching my wife for the last 22 years impact lives inside and outside of Title 1 classrooms, like no other person I have ever met,” said her spouse, Stuart Robertson. “Her incredible story in education and advocacy began as a child and all the way through becoming the 2017 Oregon State Teacher of the Year, and receiving the 2018 NEA Teaching Excellence Award for the state of Oregon. One thing about my wife is that she is a hard worker, and she is one of the most creative innovative people I have ever met. Because Gloria struggled with her own language and cultural barriers in a sink or swim classroom, she learned with the help of her mother how to overcome these obstacles. This is why you will see Gloria flying off to New York City, to be on a teacher advisory panel for Facebook Education to share crucial information about the classroom that impacts ELL students and how organizations like theirs can help make learning easier for ALL students.”
The following are letters that Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson has received over the years from students and parents.
“Dear Mrs. Robertson, Would you please give this letter to the donor you were able to get for our family? I just want to tell them thank you for the space heaters and blankets. We really needed them because it gets really cold at night. Our heater was broken and we didn’t have any blankets. Now I can sleep at night and not fall asleep in class. Thank YOU!!!!” - Anonymous
“I can’t believe what it takes to be a teacher today. I see you teaching new teachers how to teach and teach students with multiple languages who are new to this country. I never seen anything like it. Where did you learn how to do that?” - Volunteer
“I am ashamed that when my child was placed in Mrs. Robertson’s class, I was concerned at first because my child, who was advanced at the time, was going to need to be challenged. I believed placing my child in her room was an inappropriate placement because I didn’t believe she was going to be able to provide my child the educational challenge she needed to be successful in school. Although Mrs. Robertson was nice, she had cultural differences from our family, and she had to work with students who come from a different country and are unable to speak English. Let me tell you, after having my child spend Kindergarten in her classroom….boy, was I wrong. Mrs. Robertson’s teaching style, work ethic, differentiated lessons, and innovative techniques creates success for all kids. The only regret I have, is that I can’t have Mrs. Robertson be my child’s teacher all the way through high school.” - Anonymous parent
“Mrs. Robertson was my sister’s teacher in 2006, and over the years, I have seen her make positive impacts on her students and the siblings of students,” said Stephen Wike, a friend. “Even many years later, she made sure I had the tools I needed to graduate on time. She has helped my family during the winter with jackets, blankets and heaters.”
“My sister and I helped her school and class with the performance at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. We sang Pride by U2,” said Wike. “When I was able to volunteer she would have people visit who were once in her class that were graduating or had just graduated. I’ve been told she has had a few students who are now in college come back to her for mentoring and to see if teaching is for them...She advocates for children of all backgrounds and abilities to help them get what they need.”
Mrs. Pereyra-Robertson’s passion to show and teach other educators across this country that all students can learn is one of her driving forces in education. She supports education for all students, and that is why she is on the committee for Southern Oregon Latino Scholarship Fund, the Kindergarten Assessment Advisory Panel for the Oregon Department of Education and the Medford School District’s Equity Partners for the Meyer Memorial Trust Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work group.
“Gloria has inspired me by her relentless strive to provide an excellent level of education and opportunities for all students, no matter where they come from or what language they speak,” said Mr. Robertson “She has taught me and countless others that all children can learn, no matter what their circumstances are, by providing an inclusive, equitable education. She impacts education and students by: her passion to share her innovative techniques; her knowledge and best practices for culturally responsive teaching, being a peer coach and mentor; recruiting bilingual and teachers of color to reflect the student population; training student teachers; educating the local community and across the country; and just because she loves kids and teaching. Gloria is a teacher who thinks outside of the box! All teachers do amazing work every day in our schools…But it takes a special teacher like my wife, to change the mindset of community members and educators to believe that all children can learn and be able to see through the eyes of diversity.”