Hidden talents show determination, diversity of HISD’s bilingual instructors

What do a national judo champion and a member of an up-and-coming European band have in common? They’re both bilingual teachers in HISD!

The district has been hiring highly qualified bilingual teachers from Spain to fill critical shortage areas in HISD through a partnership with that country’s Ministry of Education since 1997—and Blanco “Miguel” Lopez (Law ES) and Juan Luis Alonso-Benito (Coop ES) are two of them.

“On average, we hire about 15 teachers from Spain per year,” said HISD recruiter Pedro Chapa. “And the quality of the candidates is exceptional. More than half hold advanced degrees or majored in English in addition to their teaching degree, and candidates go through a more rigorous selection process over there than those who apply in the United States. A representative from the ministry screens them before they’re even invited to the selection week in Madrid, so HISD representatives only interview preselected candidates.”

When not teaching, Lopez is a martial arts champion who placed third in his weight division at last year’s Judo Dallas Invitational. Alonso-Benito, meanwhile, is a member of the band Street Wings, which sold more than 1,000 copies of its latest album, “Up to Heaven,” the first week of its release this spring.

“Even if I didn’t have enough time, even if I was exhausted, I committed myself,” said Lopez of his experience as a first-year teacher in HISD. “Surprisingly, I learned that I could do everything in just 24 hours.”

“One of the most important lessons I have learned here is that every minute counts,” said Alonso-Benito. “Now, I see the fruits of my labor, because our kindergarten team performed at a very high level. There is no substitute for hard work and dedication.”

HISD currently has 31 teachers from Spain, and 53 have already been hired for the 2014–2015 school year, as a part of the district’s plan to expand the Dual Language program.