Lee Perez ESL ’19 named Nebraska Teacher of the Year
Lee Perez, who earned his English as a Second Language endorsement from Concordia in 2019, was named the Nebraska 2022 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 13.
Perez, an English as a Second Language teacher for grades 5-8 at Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School in Omaha, was presented the award by Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt.
“It was a really nice surprise,” Perez said. “I had worked hard on this application and I wanted to represent the Omaha Public Schools and the state of Nebraska with this recognition. This is the first time an ESL teacher of color has won this award, so it really had a special meaning because of that. I want to be an advocate for our immigrant, migrant, and refugee communities in Omaha Public Schools and across the state.”
A panel of Nebraska educators selected Perez as the 2022 Nebraska Teacher of the Year. The Teacher of the Year program recognizes the contributions of classroom teachers who are exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and who have the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. With this honor, Perez will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition later this year.
From 2008-2019, Perez taught a 7th grade World Studies-Dual Language Program at Marrs Magnet Middle School in Omaha, where he said he loved working with English Language Learners and their families. When the opportunity was presented to pursue his ESL endorsement at Concordia through Omaha Public Schools, he knew it was something he needed to do.
“My wife, who is ESL endorsed and did the Concordia program through Omaha Public Schools convinced me to get this endorsement because she saw how much I enjoyed teaching English Learners,” Perez said. “So, I applied to the program through my district and completed it in 2019 and I got my endorsement and accepted an offer to teach ESL at Alice Buffett Magnet Middle School that following fall. It was the best decision I have made in my educational career!”
Perez said he believes every child is capable of learning and that educators must utilize every educational tool available to help students strive to achieve their highest potential.
“I also believe that teachers should build strong relationships with their students and practice tolerance and kindness in their classrooms,” he said. “Our students may not remember everything that we taught them, but they will always remember how they were treated in school. I want to be a teacher of my students first, then their academics second.”
In the classroom, Perez takes a comprehensive approach to engage with his students by combining culturally responsive teaching and language learning engagement strategies. Through this approach, he teaches his students a new language, but also a new culture, while celebrating their own backgrounds and cultures.
In addition to his classroom experience, Perez is an active member in the community, belonging to many organizations including the Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee, the Omaha Education Association Metro Board, the Nebraska State Education Association and the English Learner Curriculum Pathway Committee for Omaha Public Schools. Perez has also been honored with several teaching awards and featured in several publications for his work as a teacher.
Perez said he’s thankful to Concordia for the opportunity to earn his ESL endorsement, and to Omaha Public Schools for providing him the opportunity to pursue his endorsement.
“Concordia was an awesome program, and I was truly blessed and thankful for the experience they gave me,” Perez said.