Eliane Bueno Winner of 2018 CLASP Teaching Award for K-12 Educators

In 2018, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) continues the practice of bestowing the CLASP Teaching Award for K-12 Educators to recognize excellence and innovation in the teaching of Latin America and the Caribbean among elementary, middle, and high school teachers. “Each year the award process highlights exceptional educators from across the country and brings to light inspiring teaching practices,” said Keira Philipp-Schnurer, who serves on the CLASP Outreach Committee and was a part of the review committee.

From among the outstanding teachers nominated in 2018, CLASP recognizes Eliane (Lili) Bueno as the winner of the CLASP Teaching Award for K-12 Educators. The award was publicly announced Friday, May 25, 2018, at the 52 International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association in Barcelona, Spain.

Lili serves as a Portuguese immersion teacher at Lakeview Elementary School in Provo City School District in Utah, and as a Portuguese immersion consultant for the Utah State Board of Education. In a letter of support for her, Jamie Leite, the Portuguese Director of the Utah Dual Language Immersion Program, wrote, “In her roles of teacher and teacher leader, I have seen Lili do more to impact the instruction of K-12 Portuguese than any other teacher in the U.S. Her teaching has changed the lives of hundreds of her own students while her curriculum work and leadership has impacted thousands more across the country.”

Among Jaime Leite’s litany of praise for Lili’s teaching, she added, “it is Lili’s daily commitment to her students that is her first priority and deepest passion. She sees her job as teacher as an opportunity to open the minds of her students and help them appreciate the contributions of Portuguese-speaking countries worldwide, particularly her native country of Brazil. Lili’s classroom is a little piece of Brazil in the middle of Provo, Utah and her students often comment that they forget they are in the United States when they are in her class.”

The sentiment that Lili goes above and beyond in helping her students understand not just the language, but the culture of Brazil, was further bolstered in a letter of support offered by Dr. Jaime Bateman of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Brigham Young University. As Jaime Bateman writes, “Beyond the regular curriculum, Lili finds myriad ways of incorporating Brazilian culture in her teaching. She meticulously follows the recommendation of the foreign language teaching profession that classrooms should be ‘cultural islands’ where, when students enter, they immediately feel they are in a different cultural space.”

Inasmuch as CLASP must rely on letters of support in order to understand how nominees have impacted their students, schools, and communities, so, too, does CLASP turn to the personal words of the nominee to learn more about their approach to work and their dedication to bringing Latin America to their students. In particular, the committee was moved by Lili’s depth of personal commitment. In describing her approach, Lili writes, “I am grateful for the opportunity to share my culture and language with my students as I teach the core curriculum. It is impossible to describe in words the feeling of love I feel every day watching my students communicating in Portuguese, learning my culture, gaining proficiency, and sounding exactly like a ‘Brazilian kid.’ This makes my everyday job in the classroom a real joy. Helping students become bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural; contributing to the world as global citizens or, as one would, multilingual and multicultural citizens of the world is one of my everyday missions as a teacher.”

In all, the CLASP Outreach Committee was profoundly moved by Lili’s commitment to teaching about Latin America through the lens of Brazil. In meeting the criteria for the award, she thoroughly demonstrated outstanding teaching effectiveness, innovation and creativity in the presentation of Latin American content, and involvement in professional development and community engagement.

CLASP member institutions nominate teachers for consideration. Lili was nominated by Dr. Claudio Holzner of the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at the University of Utah.

The awards are administered by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) and decided by the CLASP Outreach Committee, which was comprised of the following individuals in 2018: Lindsey Engelman, University of Texas at Austin (chair); Molly Aufdermauer, Stanford University; Karen Goldman, University of Pittsburgh; Luciano Marzulli, University of Utah; Colleen McCoy, Vanderbilt University; Keira Philipp-Schnurer, University of New Mexico; Diana Maria Shemenski, University of Pittsburgh; and Denise Woltering-Vargas, Tulane University.

CLASP’s mission is to promote all facets of Latin American Studies throughout the world. Its broad range of activities includes the encouragement of research activities, funding for professional workshops, advancement of citizen outreach activities, and development of teaching aids for the classroom.