Leticia Ingram didn’t grow up speaking Spanish; in fact, she didn’t even learn the language until she was an adult—on a month-long backpacking trip in Nicaragua with her son. But her commitment to cultural awareness has really paid off as the director of English language development at Basalt High School—where 58 percent of the student body speaks Spanish as their first language. She also co-teaches American history, government, and social studies, and works with anywhere from 75 to 100 students a day—all while raising four kids of her own.
Ingram also works with Teachers Across Borders and has traveled to Asia and Africa working hand-in-hand with teachers from around the globe. “People don’t realize what a gift education is—especially in our country where it’s free,” she says. “The more we can help each other, the better the world is going to be.”
Her work across borders influences her work in the classroom and the relationships she builds with her students. “I’m very passionate about the kids at our school,” she says. “I love how much they embrace education.”
It was Ingram’s expertise in working with her English learning students, her rapport with all of her students and her dedication to promoting education worldwide that brought her the honor of Colorado’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Through her experiences, she has seen the important role parents play in a child’s education—no matter what the age—and how parent involvement impacts student success in school.
Colorado Parent: How does being a parent enhance your skills in the classroom?
Leticia Ingram: Being a parent has taught me—especially with teenagers—not to take anything personal and to realize that there are struggles outside of school going on in kids” lives. The teenage years have their ups and downs, and they just need someone to be there for them, to listen and talk to them.
CP: What can parents do to get their children excited about learning?
LI: Find out what your child loves or what is important to them, and use it to teach them. Expose your kids to new things through hands-on experiences, like getting involved with community projects. The important thing to remember is to go side-by-side with them, model for them and learn together. Kids can’t wait—especially when they”re young—to hang out with you. Use these experiences to teach them and show them different things. If you can get them excited about learning, and you embed this when they”re little, it”ll stick with them as adults. That’s what my mom did and I still love learning—it starts at a young age.
CP: What’s your advice for parents with teens transitioning from middle school to high school?
LI: Stay involved. When kids get to high school, parents often think they”re too old so they don’t have to be as involved. But I like to think of my high school students as little kids; they”re just in bigger bodies. Teenagers still look to see if their parents are in the audience at their basketball game, or whatever activity it may be. They look for their parents” approval and involvement. They”re exposed to so many new things in high school, their hormones are going crazy and they”re trying to figure out who they are. I think that even though they might say they don’t need you, they really do—so stay involved, it matters to them.