Position: Spanish Teacher / World Language Department Chair
School: Leuzinger High School
School District: Centinela Valley High School District
City, State: Lawndale, CA
Maria Diaz was nominated by her colleague, Jose Romo.
Ms. Diaz is a dedicated and outstanding teacher who is respected and admired by not only her students, but her colleagues as well. She is a positive influence and a motivator to each of her students. She sponsors various clubs in which students are able to focus on their abilities and further their own interests. One of the ways Ms. Diaz helps her students is by staying after school to support the Mariachi Group and the Folkloric Dance Group, which were formed entirely by students. In addition, she is the sponsor of the BELLA (Beautiful Educated Leuzinger Latinas in Action) Club and the Latino Association Club. These clubs promote cultural awareness and help students focus on their academic potential.
Leuzinger High School has a diverse population, and two of its most attended and popular events are the "Celebration of the Day of the Dead", a cultural celebration of this ancient tradition, and the "Noche Latina Show," a two hour performance including dance, poetry recital, singing, acting and live music.
Ms. Diaz is so loved and respected that many of her former students who have graduated and gotten a professional degree come back to pay her visits and speak to her current students. This creates a positive atmosphere and inspires the young people who need the motivation.
Ms. Diaz is a leader by working along other clubs in her school. In addition, she is very forward-looking in making hard decisions that will ultimately benefit students. Several years ago, for example, Ms. Diaz saw that some of her students needed to gain the respect and recognition they deserved, and she founded the Gay Straight Alliance Club. She received criticism at the time, but on the other hand, she also received support and resources from others. Students were very aware of this adding to how they see her: as an advocate for them. This is simply how she conducts herself, always looking after her students. Furthermore, she is a well known teacher at the district level. Every year, she is invited to take her talented students to the other schools to perform at their events.
All the dedication, effort, time, and hard work Ms. Diaz invests is in the best interest of the students. Although her work sometimes goes under the radar, her motivation has never diminished. She never expects fame or glory, nor does she do this for her own benefit. All that she does is with her students in mind. Simple yet powerful, Ms. Diaz is focused on achieving a greater good.
Ms. Diaz is a professional and a true inspiration. She quietly does her duties as a teacher and constantly makes way for her students to seek her advice, support, and guidance. It is a gift that she possesses; many of her students gravitate towards her in a way that is admirable, and it is just proof of her vocation and love.
Ms. Diaz is a tough cookie. She has strong words when needed, as well as caring and loving support to her students.
"As a colleague, I have so much respect for her, since I do not have the dedication, patience, and time to do all she does," said Romo. "As a teacher she is constant, assertive, and firm. Students know not to mess with her since she means business. She's often in contact with parents, and this also shows her dedication to her students. She cares enough to include parents in this endeavor, and, this is the essence of what makes her such a life-changing person."
Her classroom is vibrant, warm, and always full of students. There is never a dull moment in her classroom before, during or after school, especially during lunch. Students feel welcomed, appreciated, and respected. The atmosphere is friendly and warm. Her students are easily won over by her smile and her interest in them as people. Her room is always certain to have her doors open, and her heart as well. Students appreciate this, for sure.
There are boundaries that students learn early on when meeting Ms. Diaz. She doesn't allow for nonsense or acting inappropriately. Ms. Diaz holds true to her principles: she does not tolerate lies, laziness, or disrespect. It is a joy to see how students conduct themselves around her, as she is very motherly and caring. In the same manner, Ms. Diaz is treated as such by all her students - with transparent emotions, sincerity, and all their insecurities and issues. Ms. Diaz does not make a difference in students' lives in one day - she is a constant warrior, and a true character of persistence, dedication, pure passion and love for what she does.
"At the end of the school year, when graduation comes around, I see those long hours of hard work pay off," said Romo. "She is rewarded by her students, not with gifts, but with signs of appreciation, of gratitude, of respect. That is how I know Ms. Diaz has made a great impact in their lives. Then her students go to college, graduate and come back to thank her, and I am assured that her influence is long-lasting. All I can say is that I am fortunate to work alongside her."