Rotary Club award winner incorporates culture into her classroom

Gloria Prieto Puentes, a dual language teacher at Lakewood Elementary School, feels passionate about opening her students’ minds by bringing world cultures into her classroom.

“I teach them that there are many stories, many people, many books, and many cultures,” she said. “I always add this culture component to the instruction, so students can understand cultures outside of their own, and to accept other people’s realities.”

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Prieto Puentes was recognized this year with a Service Above Self Teacher Award from the  Rotary Club of Dallas, which included an engraved plaque and a cash prize. 

Prieto Puentes, who admits to being pleasantly surprised, says these kinds of recognition are important because all teachers should feel like they are appreciated every once in a while. 

She said she feels appreciated when students and parents thank her for her work in recognizing cultures from other countries. She has students from countries like Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Mexico. As a yearly tradition, she has an activity called “My Favorite Spanish-speaking Country,” in which students prepare a presentation via Google Slides or PowerPoint about a country of their choice. 

Many of her students choose a country they have a connection to, according to Prieto Puentes. The research culminates in a presentation in front of their parents, in which many of the students bring traditional food or wear traditional clothing from the country they chose. 

“What happens is that my students feel important and appreciated,” said Prieto Puentes. “They are learning that their culture and their voice are important.”

Another way in which Prieto Puentes incorporates culture into her teaching is by talking about the city she grew up in–Barcelona, Spain. Part of this includes teaching students a new flamenco song every year. They not only learn the dance but read together about the origin and meaning of the dance, as part of their research. 

For the last two years, Prieto Puentes has also led an international exchange program, with a school in Spain named Escola Serraparera, located in Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona. The main intent of the program is for students at both schools to communicate, as they work on an artistic project together. To learn more about the program, click here.

Among the criteria for the Rotary Club of Dallas award was “evidence that the nominee participates in activities or organizations that benefit the community in such a way that it positively affects students.

Prieto Puentes’ passion for culture extends beyond the classroom with the work she does in the community, serving as the vice president of Casa de España, an organization that celebrates Spanish culture. She is also an actress and storyteller with Flor Candela theater company, and is the curator for the Día del Libro and Three Wise Men celebration at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. She also organizes art workshops in public libraries for students and community members. 

Prieto Puentes’ wish for all of her students is that they grow up to be compassionate people, who care for each other and for the planet. 

“It’s the idea that when we do good things, the idea spreads,” Prieto Puentes said. “It’s not something that stops in class—it goes beyond. I want my students to be good people, and potentially be our future leaders who will help make the world a better place.”

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