Marietta Teacher of the Year Finalist Profile: Barbara Esquijaro
Burruss Elementary teacher Barbara Esquijarosa did not always dream of becoming a teacher. In fact, teaching was an unlikely career option for this English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher. As a student, Ms. Esquijarosa struggled academically throughout her elementary school years.
“Like so many families whose children attend Marietta City Schools, my mother and father did not get beyond a high school diploma and worked tremendous hours to support our family,” says Ms. Esquijarosa. “My parents exemplified hard work.”
A turning point in her education was the attention paid to her by her tenth-grade math teacher, Ms. Haney. “She was the first one to give me confidence. She had a no-nonsense approach, knew how to keep my attitude in check, and I grew to love her.”
Taking an unconventional path to the classroom, Ms. Esquijarosa started her career as a school secretary in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and after completing her Bachelor’s degree in education, she obtained a fifth-grade teaching position. It was a challenging class that had seen a lot of inconsistency with its leaders, but that didn’t deter Ms. Esquijarosa.
“The students were angry, disconnected, and the data showed that they were performing below expectations. Their issues made me determined to reach them. I pushed through and saw amazing results, socially, emotionally, and academically. At the end of the school year, we all cried together. I fell in love with teaching. I sought to progress through professional development, constantly reflecting on how to be better. I began coaching and mentoring other teachers. By my third year of teaching, I won Village Green Elementary School’s Rookie Teacher of the Year award.”
When Ms. Esquijarosa joined Marietta City Schools, she set out on a mission to learn as much as she could about her new school community. She became a mentor and advocate for students, families, and teachers. She implemented mentorships between teachers and English Language Learner students and led professional development sessions on best practices and culturally responsive pedagogy. Her goal was to ensure that teachers were equipped to support students whose first language was not English. She saw great success academically with her students, and while she does celebrate the data that supports her efforts, nothing compares to the human impact that validates her work.
“Seeing the face of a first grader from Mexico read a story for the first time, and the ah-ha moments’ teachers experience after professional development are priceless. I heard statements like, “Barbie, I had no clue, thank you!” and “This strategy you recommended has been working!” The hugs of appreciation received from a new teacher who whispered, “Thank you for being there for me in my hardest times!” and the words, “Gracias Ms. E,” from a parent after many tears will never be forgotten. Lastly, the phrase I hear from students whom I have never taught as I walk down the hallway, “Ms. E, when will you come into my class?”
Ms. Esquijarosa is one of three Teacher of the Year finalists for Marietta City Schools. The district will celebrate its award-winning teachers and employees May 28, 2019, at its annual Teacher of the Year and Employee Awards Luncheon at Roswell Street Baptist Church.