Elizabeth Najera-Bustillos, a Spanish Dual Language Immersion and English Language Development teacher at Blair Middle School, has been named the 2019 Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Teacher of the Year and is the district’s nominee for the 2019 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year honors competition.
Ms. Najera-Bustillos was one of five Rotary Teachers of Excellence honored in May.
“Congratulations to Ms. Najera-Bustillos for this well-deserved honor,” said Superintendent Brian McDonald, a former middle school teacher and principal. “She is a phenomenal teacher who cares about the success of her students. I am grateful for the dedication and professionalism of all PUSD teachers who work hard every day in their classrooms to prepare and inspire our students to reach their potential.”
Since 2016, Ms. Najera-Bustillos has taught Spanish Language Arts and works with students who are learning English at Blair Middle School, an International Baccalaureate school that encourages students to develop multilingual skills and think critically in local and global contexts. In addition to International Baccalaureate, the school also has a Spanish Dual Language Immersion Program, an International Academy and a Health Careers Academy.
Ms. Najera-Bustillos joined PUSD in 2005 as an English Language Development teacher at Pasadena High School (PHS) and later became the school’s Language Resource teacher. At PHS, she developed and refined her teaching skills and as a result was often asked to present her successful strategies to her peers. Although leaving PHS was very difficult for her, she decided to move to Blair where she would be involved in the development and implementation of the school’s Spanish Dual Immersion Program.
The child of Mexican immigrants, Ms. Najera-Bustillos was her family’s translator as a young child, an experience that inspired her to become a biliteracy teacher to help students “build bridges of understanding and compassion through language.” For her, it was very clear early on in her life that “there is power in being bilingual and biliterate and that living in a diverse community where people’s languages and cultures are respected is a great asset as our world becomes more and more globalized.”
“I am extremely fortunate to be part of the Blair community that values biliteracy, where students can create and learn together,” said Ms. Najera-Bustillos. “My favorite part of teaching is that perfection is not the goal; instead, it’s the journey that children take learning from their experiences and mistakes, taking risks, and becoming creative problem-solvers.”
She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), where she earned a master’s degree in education. Ms. Najera-Bustillos began her teaching career in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. As a biliteracy teacher, she worked in collaboration with a group of bilingual teachers and the UCSC New Teacher Center’s English Learners Institute to create and write curriculum for a program where students studied in both English and Spanish.
As the district’s nominee, Ms. Najera-Bustillos will represent PUSD in the annual Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) Teacher of the Year competition, the largest of its kind in the state that is also part of the oldest and most prestigious honors contest in the U.S. for public school teachers. If selected as L.A. County Teacher of the Year, Ms. Najera-Bustillos will be in contention for state designation.