By JACKY TAMEZ
The letter arrived Sept. 10, thereby concluding the competition and waiting period that lasted six months. This letter named Dr. Miguel Estrada as the 2012 Texas Foreign Language Association Teacher of the Year. Teachers all over the nation from universities and high schools that offer courses in languages were nominated.
Estrada, department chair of English and modern languages, received the Teacher of the Year Award at a luncheon Oct. 13 in Austin, Texas. He received the plaque recognizing him as the Teacher of the Year while the host, Teresa Tattersall, the president-elect of the Texas Foreign Language Association, highlighted his many achievements.
Estrada joined the Texas Foreign Language Association, a non-profit organization that seeks to advance the study of language and literature, in 2005. He is also a speaker at conferences on teaching language courses in cities ranging from Austin to South Padre Island.
Estrada said that these reasons enabled him to receive the nomination.
Dr. Phyllis Thompson, the former chair of the language department, nominated Estrada last January.
As part of the competition, Estrada had to submit letters of recommendation from senior Jennifer Lee, sophomore Won-Yi Ling and senior Angel Maldonado. He also submitted a letter from Dr. Christopher Hammons, interim dean of the School of Humanities.
“The committee compares what you have done with what other candidates have done,” Estrada said. “The letters helped a lot. Because of the students, I won.”
Estrada submitted a portfolio that included a curriculum vitae, his resume, his philosophy of teaching and examples of his teaching.
An example of his teaching strategy is to encourage open interaction in the classroom.
“It is important to connect with the students,” Estrada said. “There is always a story behind each student, and if you can understand that, it builds a better environment.”
Estrada said he understands the difficulty of learning a different language since he had to learn English when he was 16 years old, but the struggle taught him to be humble.
Born in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Estrada came to the United States in 1985, where he attended Eastwood High School in El Paso, Texas.
“I admired the U.S.” Estrada said. “I knew that if I applied myself, I could succeed.”
Estrada received his bachelor’s degree in secondary education and Spanish from the University of Texas at El Paso, a master’s in Hispanic literature and a doctorate in Spanish American literature from the University of New Mexico, and a master’s in school administration from HBU.
Estrada began to work at the University in 2005, teaching high-level Spanish courses. He is also the sponsor for Hispanic Student Organization.
“It is a part of my life too,” Estrada said. “To me it is important to sponsor them because it creates a cultural bridge.”
This year he was also the University’s nominee for the Piper Professor Award. In 2008, he won the Opal Goolsby Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence.
“It is surprising and an honor to be nominated,” said Estrada. “It is nice to be recognized.”