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Minnesota teacher wins national human rights award

Mon, Mar 1st, 2010
Posted in Education

Eagan, Minn., March 1: A Twin Cities teacher who came to the United States as a young girl unable to speak English has become the first educator from Minnesota to win a prestigious human rights award from the National Education Association (NEA).

Magaly Miralles of Red Pine Elementary School in Eagan is this year's winner of the George I. Sanchez Award. The award is presented annually by the NEA to an individual whose activities have made significant improvements in educational opportunities and advanced the achievement of equal opportunity for Hispanics.

Miralles originally received the Human Rights Award presented by Education Minnesota in 2008. Education Minnesota then forwarded her name for consideration by the NEA for its national award.

Miralles is a K-5 ELL (English Language Learners) teacher at Red Pine Elementary. She has initiated pilot programs in collaborative teaching and in extended services for kindergarten students receiving ELL services. A significant part of her educational practice is getting to know the children and their families, and connecting the families with the community services they often need.

"I can think of no one more deserving of national recognition than Magaly," said Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher. "All Minnesotans should be proud of her and her accomplishments."

Miralles knows firsthand the needs of ELL families. She's a native of Venezuela who came to the United States at age eight. She knew virtually no English and had no understanding of North American culture when she arrived. The girl who "went home in tears every afternoon" is now an adult teacher who has dedicated her life to making sure other children don't experience that same anguish.

"Magaly is the best ELL teacher I have ever worked with and one of the finest educators I have ever had the honor to work beside," said Red Pine Elementary Principal Gary Anger.

The Sanchez Award is named after George I. Sanchez (1906-1972). He was an educator, historian and author in the United States, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. He devoted 50 years of his life to the education of Mexican, Navajo and black children, and is known as the "father" of the movement for quality education for Mexican-Americans.

"Magaly Miralles knows what it's like to speak a foreign language in a new country," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "That understanding has led to her life's passion, working to make sure Spanish-speaking new-comers to America are successful in school. Magaly works with students, with their parents, and with the Spanish-speaking community to make sure that every child has the opportunity for a great education. We all live in a better world because of her efforts."

This award will be presented to Miralles at the NEA's annual Human and Civil Rights Award Dinner on July 2 at the New Orleans Convention Center.

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