SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Former dentist Lila Hernandez Rivas relocated from Venezuela to Springdale and discovered a new calling in education.
“We didn’t know anything about the United States,” Hernandez Rivas said of when she arrived in the country about five-and-a-half years ago. According to a press release, Hernandez Rivas, a Sonora Elementary School first grade teacher, decided on a career change after working as an instructional assistant.
“I felt that I would love to stay in a classroom and teach kids, especially when children from other countries who didn’t speak English came,” she said, adding that she wants to be someone students can trust. She was able to transition to a career in education through Project REACH, Retooling Educators and Paraprofessionals to ACHieve Teacher Credentialing program, she said.
“They gave me a scholarship where they paid everything,” she said. “Everything related to college, they were there for us.”
Project REACH “fosters teacher effectiveness and equity in meeting the needs of a rapidly growing English learner population in Springdale School District and targeted schools.” In an effort to address the disparity in teacher-student diversity, a “Grow Your Own” initiative targets bilingual/bicultural paraprofessionals in the Springdale district to upgrade their qualifications and skills by earning an Associate of Art and/or Bachelor of Science in Education in elementary education with an ESL endorsement.
These future teachers have an insider’s knowledge from multiple years of serving district English learners and their families. Many reside in the community where they work.
Hernandez Rivas said it’s scary and exciting to be a first-year teacher, noting she has to put into practice all she’s learned.
“I really want to make an impact in my children,” she said.
More information about project REACH is available here.