Growing up as a Mexican immigrant in the U.S., University of Houston-Victoria alumnus Lily Monroe knew she wanted to help children adapt to their new language. She now is being honored for doing just that.
Monroe, a Houston resident, recently was named the Elementary English as a Second Language Teacher of the Year by the Houston Area Association for Bilingual Education. She became eligible for the award when she was named the Fort Bend Independent School District Elementary ESL Teacher of the Year and the ESL Teacher of the Year at Arizona Fleming Elementary in Houston. Monroe previously won Teacher of the Year at Arizona Fleming Elementary in 2008.
When Monroe first moved to the U.S., she read the English-Spanish dictionary to try to learn at least 20 new words a day.
“Back then, bilingual classes weren’t available,” she said. “Being in a strange country, not knowing the language and struggling to make friends in a new school planted the dream that one day I was going to become a teacher and help children like me.”
She started out as a parent volunteer at Arizona Fleming Elementary and was hired in 1998 as a bilingual aide. While helping the teachers, Monroe decided she wanted to become a teacher so she could help more children.
Working as a substitute teacher, Monroe attended UHV and earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. She graduated in 2005 and was hired at Arizona Fleming, where she still teaches.
She taught second and third grade before becoming the ESL campus facilitator and support teacher this year. In her new position, she moves from different classrooms in all grade levels, helping ESL students succeed with English. Monroe said she has never enjoyed teaching as much as she does now.
“Many of the children don’t speak English and are in regular classrooms,” she said. “It can be a difficult transition for them. I help them adapt and understand their feelings about why their families moved from Pakistan, Guatemala or wherever they came from. It’s very rewarding.”
Along with teaching, Monroe is active in extracurricular activities at Arizona Fleming. She is the sponsor of the Girls’ Club, which promotes high self-esteem among students, and helped form a track committee that raised more than $10,000 for a walking track. She also recruited volunteers to create the school’s first parent center, providing English classes to parents.
Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education & Human Development said Monroe is an example of the great things students can do with an education degree.
“Teaching is a noble profession that requires educators to put others’ needs first,” he said. “Ms. Monroe shows the character and effort it takes to be a successful teacher, and I am glad that she is being recognized for it.”
Monroe credits her UHV professors for part of her success. Monroe said UHV professors encouraged her to teach for a while before perusing her master’s degree in education administration, which she recently completed. While she is happy teaching right now, she plans to be a school principal in the future.
“I still keep in contact with a couple of my UHV professors,” she said. “Even after I graduated, my UHV professors were always there when I needed advice about my teaching career. They even helped me with certain situations with students I had when I first became a teacher.”