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How Laura DuPre has spearheaded bilingualism in classrooms

Katelynn Abrams

Village News Intern

After 44 years, Fallbrook resident Laura DuPre has retired from teaching, but she isn't stepping down from her role in the community or advocating for bilingualism and multiculturalism, which have always been important to her.

DuPre knew in the second grade that she wanted to be a teacher. She was attending a Spanish speaking elementary school in Acapulco, Mexico where she would teach English to the other children. She stood in front of the entire school and taught them English words through gestures and visuals.

For example, she would say "nose" as she pointed to her nose, and the other children would repeat. "I was sharing my culture with them and they were sharing their culture with me," she said of her childhood in Mexico.

In college, she studied English and Spanish and did editorial work for the departments at UCSD. Her first teaching job was as a teacher's aide at a high school where she taught English, which she described as challenging but really interesting.

Once she graduated college, she taught one year of high school in San Marcos, developing curriculum. It was then that she realized she wanted to work with younger students who were in the early language-learning stage. More specifically, DuPre wanted to teach third grade, which is the pivotal year when children develop their organizational, studying, critical thinking, and writing skills, she said.

After making that decision, she taught second and third grade in Escondido for two years. Following that, she moved to Fallbrook and did a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade combination at Fallbrook Street School for a year. Then DuPre's supervisor from her teacher's aide position hired her at Maie Ellis Elementary and secured a third-grade teaching job for her.

With the exception of a few instances when she briefly taught third grade at La Paloma and Fallbrook Street School, she stayed with Maie Ellis Elementary for the bulk of her career.

One of DuPre's favorite activities as a teacher was taking her students on a historical walk through Fallbrook. She had the students sketch the carriage at Fallbrook Woman's Club, the train at Railroad Heritage Park, and the second oldest church in Fallbrook before treating everyone to frozen yogurt.

They talked about details and how details apply to areas other than art, such as writing. The activity combined community, art, and learning as students discussed and observed textures and architecture which, DuPre said, led students "to develop a more discerning eye."

Another activity she taught her third graders throughout the years was the God's Eye craft for Mother's Day. The hard work it took the students to make the craft, holding the yarn tight, reflects the hard work of their mothers. It was a great way for the students to express themselves creatively with yarn, beads, and feathers.

DuPre pointed out that the students were always so proud of their God's Eye.

For the last three years, she connected her students to students in Spain through a pen pal program, which included exchanging videos of students singing and dancing and playing games. She had studied in Spain with her teaching partner and other FUESD teachers. There is also a dance she has taught every year, Jarabe Tapatio, which is a popular dance from Guadalajara.

During her career, DuPre was given the opportunity to teach multiple generations from the same families. For one family, she had a student whose grandmother she'd taught, who still had dance festival pictures, which the granddaughter then participated in too, as well as the God's Eye project.

In addition to that family connection, DuPre taught another woman, one she has kept in touch with and inspired, and the woman's daughter, who she helped gain confidence at school.

Alongside teaching, DuPre has been active in the Fallbrook community, such as working in the art community with the Chamber of Commerce for the last three years, among other things.

She told stories of how she made her students feel safe and inspired to learn, not only in the classroom but in their lives, throughout her teaching career. She spearheaded teaching as a bilingual educator and the Dual Immersion program at Maie Ellis Elementary.

While she was teaching, she was involved with parent committees English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) and District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC), and the Leader in Me Lighthouse leadership team. She has represented the Fallbrook Elementary Teachers Association and other surrounding unions at the California Teacher Association State Council for 33 years as well as been a part of local, county, state, and national teacher's union work.

She has also been very involved in the Fallbrook A Leer yearly community event, dance productions, soccer coaching, and other community events. According to Jeannie Poznanski, a friend who witnessed DuPre with her students, DuPre has touched many lives and become loved in and out of the classroom.

In her retirement, DuPre is going to stay with her advocacy work, promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism. Her goal is to make sure that in dual language programs, the Spanish side has the same amount of rigor as the English side.

She plans to do this by continuing to work with Californians Together, Center for Applied Linguistics and Center for Equity, and, her main advocacy now that she is retired, National Education Association Multilingual Learners Caucus. One example of the work Californians Together does is the Seal of Biliteracy, which goes on a student's diploma and celebrates their accomplishment of becoming proficient in two or more languages.

DuPre hopes to increase participation in the Fallbrook art community, perhaps with Arts in the Park and the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. She looks forward to participating in a project that she wrote the majority of material for, which involves Live Oak Park Coalition and teaching third graders Fallbrook history.

She also wants to do volunteer work in elementary classrooms in subjects such as art, Fallbrook history, and writing, which is her favorite subject to teach. In addition, DuPre plans to teach a Spanish class that will feature painting inspirational rocks.

When discussing her retirement and plans for the future, DuPre said, "Retiring has been really hard for me," which is one of the reasons she plans to travel to Mexico when the school year starts.

As the type of person who was always excited to get to the classroom everyday, she has found it hard to not be going back. However, she knows it is the right time. "There's a reason why I'm retiring," DuPre said about the mixed feelings she's experienced since making the decision to retire from teaching.

Now that the full-time teaching chapter in her life has closed, DuPre's focus is on her family, including her four grandchildren who she plans to enjoy spending time with traveling and camping. She is also looking forward to the yearly trip to Brazil she goes on with one of her sons and grandsons for a soccer tournament, and she hopes to learn Portuguese before she goes this year.

 

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