San Luis teacher honored with Esperanza Latino Teacher of the Year Award

SAN LUIS – Every year, the organization Chicanos Por La Causa, honors Latino teachers in Arizona who go above and beyond — inside and outside their classrooms — with the Esperanza Latino Teacher of the Year award. This year, three teachers from Maricopa County received the award but it was one teacher from San Luis who really stood out.

San Luis Middle School is located just a few miles north of the border with Mexico. It is here where Lucia Alvarez, a seventh grade math teacher, received the surprise of her life. A life marked by both triumphs and hardships.

For the past 10 years, Alvarez has been more than a just a math teacher. She has also been a support system to every student that walks through her classroom door, even on the toughest of days.

“People still think that, if you cannot do anything else just be a teacher,” she said. “No. Being a teacher, it’s teaching with your heart.”

It is because of that love for teaching that Chicanos Por La Causa chose Alvarez as one of 2017’s Esperanza Latino Teacher of the Year.

Veronica Carrillo with Chicanos Por La Causa said teachers who are honored with the award must be committed to going above and beyond for not only their students, but also their communities.

“Many of them have overcome many different obstacles in their lives and have used those life experiences to really make a difference in the lives of the students that they teach,” she said.

Many of the students in Alvarez’s class know a thing or two about obstacles. Holding back tears, Alvarez said some of her students have to get up as early as 3 a.m. to get ready for school and cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

Lucia Alvarez

Lucia Alvarez is surprised with the award in her classroom in San Luis. (Photo by Alex Valdez/Cronkite News)

“Some of them do not have a house here. They have to live in San Luis, so they come and they go everyday” she said. “They have to wait in line for two or three hours.”

Alvarez said the reason why she has a special connection with her students is because she has personally gone through the same challenges. Alvarez reminds her students every day that anything is possible.

“Never give up because if I can do it, then you can do it,” she said.

Alvarez is one of four teachers receiving the Teacher of the Year award. Chicanos Por La Causa said each one of them has inspired his or her students in different ways.

After 10 years of teaching, Alvarez said she wants her students to know one thing: no obstacle is too big to overcome.

The Esperanza Latino Teacher Award comes with a cash prize of $5,000 and Chicanos Por La Causa will also donate $2,500 to San Luis Middle School, where Alvarez teaches.

Alvarez said she will continue to go the extra mile for her students, as the role of a teacher goes beyond the classes and subjects taught inside the classroom.

“You’re not only teaching the subject. You have to teach them the values. You have to teach them the morals,” she said. “You have to teach them so many things. They spend some times more time with us than their actual parents.”