On a chilly Tuesday morning at Eliot Elementary School, fourth-grade ELA teacher Fernando Lopez was teaching his students how to analyze a story when he was suddenly summoned to the school parking lot for a special surprise.
Cars covered in painted messages and decorations drove by Lopez, cheering him on for being named HISD’s January Teacher of the Month – not only for effectively teaching his students English, but also for helping them develop a love of reading. As a thank-you for his hard work, he will be driving a 2021 Honda CR-V, courtesy Sterling McCall Honda.
An alumnus of Eliot Elementary School, Lopez has dedicated the last 22 years to helping ensure his students grow in their acquisition of a second language and their ability to effectively read and communicate through writing.
“First and foremost, you have to motivate students to read. The first step is to model the behavior; they have to see you enjoy reading,” Lopez said. “At the end of the day, my goal is for them to carry that love of reading out of my classroom and into their daily lives.”
HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan thanked Lopez for his tireless dedication to his students, despite the obstacles presented by the pandemic, as well as his own health challenges.
“Everyone agrees, Mr. Lopez, that you are a rockstar teacher and rockstar member of the community,” Lathan said. “We want to thank you for all that you do to support our children, and your contributions to HISD. I want to thank you for staying the course and continuing to do what you need to do to be successful.”
Last year, Lopez was diagnosed with cancer and went through a successful yearlong treatment. Despite his own battle, he bounced back and returned to Eliot and continued to have a tremendous impact on the school and its community.
“I am proud product of HISD. I am a proud product of the Denver Harbor community that I grew up in,” Lopez said. “I have a special connection here, and this is the place that I want to be for the rest of my career. I plan to finish it right where I started off.”
As part of the Teacher of the Month program, HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan and district leaders – along with a rep from Group 1 Automotive – surprise a deserving teacher. Each month, the selected teacher receives a gift basket and a luxury loaner vehicle.
Each of the seven HISD Area Superintendents are responsible for selecting a teacher from their region to be honored from November 2020 to May 2021. Principals who would like to nominate a teacher on their campus should contact their school support officer or area superintendent directly.