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OUS Spanish teacher wins national award

Edgar Serrano, Spanish instructor at Oxford University School and at the University of Mississippi, has been named the 2018 recipient of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.

Originally from Mexico City, Serrano worked in international sales for more than a decade. In 2009, he returned to college to earn a master’s degree and began teaching language in 2011.

“Being honored makes me proud of my decision to teach and help impact young learners,” Serrano said in a news release. “It also means that there is a light at end of the tunnel, and that it is never too late to start a new career. You never know, you may find your real passion in life, just as I have.”

The AATSP, founded in 1917, collaborates with educators on programs and research projects to promote the study and teaching of Spanish and Portuguese languages and culture throughout all levels of education.

According to a statement from the university, Serrano’s work makes Oxford a more vibrant community and supports the university’s strategic goal of educating and engaging global citizens.

Serrano’s commitment to education is also evidenced in the successes of his students at OUS, said Head of School Kim Chrestman. Serrano divides his time between the two institutions, spending Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Ole Miss, and Tuesday and Thursday at OUS.

“At OUS, we realize the benefits of the bilingual brain and the ability of students to transfer information between one language and another,” Chrestman said. “With Señor Edgar coming in, especially teaching Spanish but also with technology, our students are given opportunities to use their minds to their fullest potential.”

In addition to teaching Spanish, Serrano also teaches a technology course to OUS students beginning in first grade. The course includes everything from keyboarding to coding, and Chrestman said Serrano makes it a point to incorporate Spanish as well.

The school starts Spanish instruction with students as young as 3 years old, something Serrano said he finds challenging, but rewarding.

“I learned how smart and how fast very young students can learn,” Serrano said in a recent news release. “They looked at me with emotion and were full of energy. Parents tell me that their kids are always using the language by counting, singing the days of the week, or by playing with their toys and teaching them Spanish. For them, it’s so natural and simple like playing.”

To keep younger students engaged, he introduces songs, videos and activities including drama, puppet shows, story time, yoga, scavenger hunts and travel experiences. Students are given positive feedback and assessed on the readiness standards of communication, connection, comparison, culture and community.

It’s a method that has paid off, as Serrano was recognized for his work with elementary students at the AATSP conference held in Salamanca, Spain, in June. During the conference, it was announced that students from OUS had medaled in national contests for Spanish posters and other projects.

Serrano is making Mississippi a better place by teaching young students, said Dan O’Sullivan, chair and professor of modern languages at Ole Miss.

“Mr. Serrano has proven himself to be a leader in language education in our state, and he has been doing our state the biggest service of all by focusing on language education in elementary schools,” O’Sullivan said in a news release. “The younger the student, the easier it is to learn a foreign language, and moreover, the broader the young mind starts out in life.”