Ask Away: 5 Questions for Spanish Speaking School Administrator & Author
We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…
Meet Nury Castillo Crawford—Director of Academic Support at Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia.
1. Why is language learning important? What’s your own background with languages?
I have a personal passion and respect for all of the languages of the world. To me a language is more than just the method of communication for a group of people. To me a language is the way a group of people communicate values, beliefs, and customs. Language helps you feel part of a special group, unity. Language is part of traditions and it reflects solidarity for that group of people as well.
My background with languages revolves around my emigration to the USA when I was ten years old. I was born in Peru and spoke Spanish only. I then moved to the USA, where the only Spanish was at home with my own immediate family. I learned English and that opened up an entire new culture to me—American. I am proud to be able to not only communicate in both languages, but also enjoy all of the amazing cultural opportunities from both Latino and American lives.
2. Can you describe to us your district’s language program? Are there any particular lessons learned or obstacles overcome that you’d like to share—successes, challenges?
I’m blessed to work with a school district that plans, is proactive vs. reactive, and acknowledges its diversity. We have a successful ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Program, a Dual Language Immersion Program, and a Foreign Language Program. All programs are successful due to strategic planning for not only academic standards but also ensuring the strategies, programs, and resources reflect the needs of our community’s population demographics. A challenge would be one that I’m sure all districts face, which is always trying to stay ahead of the changes and needs of our students.
3. In addition to being a school administrator, you are also President of GALAS, the Georgia Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. What roles do language and culture play in your work with this professional association?
Language and culture play an integral part of what we do. Our mission and vision both incorporate advocacy for Latino youth through effective leadership at the school and school district level.
Research tells us that students need to see themselves in their experiences in order for those experiences to be relevant. This goes for their teachers, leaders, assignment tasks, and resources during their school day. We want to help ensure we are supporting those leaders that work with our Latino youth.
4. You’re also an author! What inspired your book 3,585 Miles to be an American Girl? What do you hope readers take away from this story?
Yes! I love being an author and sharing my bilingual children’s book with everyone, not just children.
I had a few inspirations to my book. I have dedicated this book to my mom who passed away about six years ago. Another inspiration are my sons. I realized that my parents lived the sacrifice so that I could benefit from their dream and that my own children were somewhat oblivious to the struggle. I wanted to leave a little part of me not only to them but to my grandchildren, and so forth.
Last but not least, I wanted to share the story of an immigrant from a child’s point of view. Many times people hear about the immigration experience via an adult’s struggle with employment, limited language, and even legal status. This story is about a little girl, what she sees and how she feels. A story of family, love and perseverance.
5. Can you tell us an anecdote about a particular student for whom language learning has made a big difference?
I immediately think of myself, not because I am the only one who’s ever benefited from learning a second language, but because how powerful language has been for me.
When I emigrated to the USA, I was monolingual, I barely knew how to undo my braids. Yet I was “picked up and placed” in a new world with zero language acquisition. Within four years immersed in the English language, I had refinanced my parents’ house, taught my mom to drive, and interpreted for my parents’ at every occasion possible.
Bonus Question: What message do you have for students considering or currently learning a language?
I tell every child I meet that is multilingual or learning a new language that it will literally be their Super Power!
Practice, practice, and practice some more!
Do you speak a language other than English with your family at home, like Nury did with her parents? Check out our Heritage Learners page for resources and even more testimonials. Or are you interested in college programs, scholarship opportunities, and student stories about learning Spanish? Visit our Lead with Spanish page!
Then tell us your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media.