Team Spotlight: Yolanda Santellano

April 25, 2022

Hugh Hartman first-grade Dual Language teacher Yolanda Santellano, who works hard to make sure students become bilingual and biliterate in English and Spanish.

How long have you been working for RSD — where and in what roles?  

I have been working for the Redmond School District for four years. I initially started my career as an instructional assistant while completing my student teaching in the George Fox Educational Program. I am currently one of the first grade Dual Language teachers at Hugh Hartman Elementary. Before becoming a teacher, I attended George Fox University and worked hard to help my family out. I was a preschool teacher for Oregon Child Development Coalition and spent my spare time coaching kids’ soccer, which is where I found my passion for working with children.

What made you want to be a teacher, and a dual language teacher at that? 

When I was exploring my career options, I didn’t have in mind becoming a teacher. I actually wanted to be a fashion designer and go to beauty school. However, I’ve always been surrounded by kids my whole life, whether my own sibling or other children, and I’ve always enjoyed teaching them. Watching students grow in their academics is what inspired me to become a teacher. 

I come from a Latinx family who only spoke Spanish to me growing up. Therefore, being able to teach in both languages brings me closer to my roots. I am no longer just teaching English/Spanish. I am now able to bring my culture into my classroom and learn from my students’ culture. That’s why I joined the Dual Language program. Being able to work in a place where I can speak my native language, teach it, and inspire my students is what makes me love my job! 

What is your favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of my job is teaching, inspiring, and laughing with my students. I love seeing my students be curious about learning. I love knowing that I’m making a difference in my students’ lives. Teaching my students to develop academics in two languages — which they will be able to speak, listen, talk, and read — is what I love about my job. Knowing that when my students graduate from the program they will be bilingual students with a huge advantage compared to some of their peers is what keeps me motivated.

It is exciting being able to accompany my students on this journey and knowing they will have better opportunities as they grow older by being bilingual.  

I love that I’m a Latina teacher representing my people, inspiring other Latinos in the community, and I’m a Latina who many Latinos can relate to. Not to mention my work colleagues — I work with the best team in the school district!

What is the biggest challenge of your job? 

The biggest challenges I face in my job are having limited resources, people not understanding the Dual Language Program and the extra workload that goes with being a Dual Language teacher — and just not having enough time in the day to do everything I would like to do. Being a Dual Language teacher requires a lot of dedication and hard work. 

Why do you think the dual language program is an important part of RSD? 

The Dual Language Program is an important part of the Redmond School District because we are serving a lot of students who benefit from this program. We have newcomers and English language learners who learn best in an environment that embraces their native language. 

In addition, there are many benefits students gain from being part of a dual-language program. I can personally attest the impact it has when students grow up exposed to a diverse environment. Bilingual children can take advantage of knowing their background is being acknowledged. And individuals who are not native Spanish speakers gain an increased cultural awareness and appreciation. The DL program teaches all students to learn and develop understanding for their own culture, along with other cultures.

We are helping them build the foundation that will help create lifelong skills that can benefit students in their personal life and future career. The Dual Language program teaches children to not only be bilingual, but to be biliterate. This program is an important part of RSD because it offers so many amazing benefits to all the students in the program. 

“Without a doubt, Yolanda is an exceptional teacher who makes sure every student knows they are loved and cared for, and they can learn while having fun in the process! She works tirelessly to implement instructional strategies that support student learning and expand educational opportunities for our learners. Yolanda has a heart of gold and doesn’t stop working until she has done everything possible for every student.” — Brittaney Cocciolo, Assistant Director of Student Services 

“Yolanda is a talented educator who puts her heart and soul into serving our students, families and Hugh Hartman team.   She has high expectations for herself and students. She embraces opportunities to integrate cultural experiences into the classroom environment. Her passion for teaching is reflected through her students’ love of learning in her dual language classroom.” — Lisa Burgher, Principal of Hugh Hartman Elementary

Redmond School District | 145 SE Salmon Drive. | Redmond, OR | 97756 | P: 541.923.5437

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