November 2016 Alumnae eNewsletter: Gloria Pereyra-Robertson ’84

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Gloria Pereyra-Robertson ’84 Receives Oregon’s 2017 Teacher of the Year Award

By Alexis Rodriguez, Associate Director of Advancement

Gloria Pereyra-Robertson ‘84 understands the power of a high-quality education, and believes all children deserve an equal opportunity to learn and succeed. This is why she has dedicated her life to building a strong foundation for kindergarteners in Jackson County, Oregon, and the state has taken notice of her efforts.

Gloria was named Oregon’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, surpassing the other 249 teachers throughout the state who were also nominated for this prestigious award. Not only is she the first Jackson County teacher to receive this award since 1988, she is also the first Mexican-American teacher to be recognized as Teacher of the Year.

In a school-wide assembly on September 28, the Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Salam Noor, announced Gloria as the winner. He presented her with a $5,000 check and the school with a second $5,000 check from the Oregon Lottery, sponsor of the Oregon Teacher of the Year program. As the assembly ended, Gloria was joined by her former students –more than one-third of the school – on stage to congratulate her.

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Gloria has been teaching Kindergarten for more than two decades and has made a significant impact on hundreds of students and their families over the years. She even manages to maintain relationships with her students long after they leave her class. This past year, she attended the high school graduation of some of her students from her first kindergarten class at Howard Elementary. “It was so cool to see how many of my students had received scholarships and were going to college,” Gloria beamed.

Gloria’s first teaching job was in the Sweetwater Union High District before she moved to Oregon. For the last 14 years, she has been a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Howard Elementary in the Medford School District in Southern Oregon. Howard Elementary is a Title 1, high-poverty, extremely diverse school where over 20% of students are English Language Learners. “I am committed to building bridges between our school, parents and community – one that supports and respects all cultures, languages and diversity,” Gloria said.

Gloria credits her parents, who emigrated from Mexico in the 1950s, for inspiring her passion for education and the desire to become a teacher. Because Gloria learned English as a second language, she is passionate about teaching in a bilingual classroom and helping her students become lifelong learners. “I’ve walked in their shoes, and I know what it takes to learn with a language barrier,” Gloria explained.

Gloria strives to create an inclusive environment for her students, ensuring they feel welcome in her classroom. She remembers how impactful it was to always be included in the classroom and among her peers while she was a student at OLP. “OLP was a place where all students earned a high-quality education, no matter who you were or what your background was. Everyone had an equal opportunity to learn and achieve,” she said. “My teachers at OLP were approachable and always put the needs of the students first.”

One of Gloria’s favorite classes at OLP was the literature class, Fairytales, Fables, and Allegories taught by Mrs. Clement. Gloria recalls Mrs. Clement staying with her after class, breaking down the material to make sure she understood everything. Another one of Gloria’s teachers gave her a bilingual dictionary to help her translate notes from school to her parents.

“I graduated OLP knowing that I was expected to be a leader, a productive member of society, and to create a positive influence in the community,” Gloria said.  

Gloria’s mother, Maria Pereyra, is her inspiration and has had a significant impact on her career over the years. “I am so grateful for my mother’s perseverance and the sacrifices that both her and my father made to give my sister, Taide, and I an OLP education,” Gloria said.

Taide Pereyra ’80, an OLP alumna and teacher for over 28 years, just recently passed away. Gloria remembers her as an amazing teacher. “I didn’t realize how many people’s lives she touched until I heard them speak at her services,” Gloria recalls.  Taide’s dedication to help others has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to Gloria.  

Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, wrote a recognition letter to Gloria saying, “You are an educator who sees the potential in each of your students, regardless of race, gender, or language. The power of your work is rooted in your ability to honor each student for their individual gifts and remind them that they’re special.”

Although Gloria will be busy representing Oregon as the Teacher of the Year at events around the state, she will still teach in her classroom. She will continue to provide each of her students with the highest caliber of academic support and remind them, “There is no limit to your education!”

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Gloria and her mother on OLP’s campus.