Name: Wanda Ocasio
Education: Northeastern Illinois University
Born and raised: Born in Puerto Rico; raised in Chicago
Position and Start Year at IAMS: Pre-Kindergarten teacher, 2005
Why are you in education? Because I had a great kindergarten teacher. The stories that she read seemed so real!
What are your hobbies and interests? Salsa dancing. In fact, some of the staff get together after school each week to practice our dancing—salsa, merengue, and more.
Where did you learn Spanish? My parents spoke Spanish. I remember when my brother was in preschool, and I started speaking English with him. Besides that, it was "Sesame Street" and "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." They were awesome!
What is the main challenge of teaching/working in a dual-language school? In my position, I get to see those generations of Latino families that started off knowing Spanish. But from generation to generation, I see the Spanish diminishing. A lot of Latino families are not keeping it up, and we can't do it all here. That's where the families need to come in. The kids need the support at home. Losing my Spanish is what happened to me, and I don't want it to happen to them.
Who has been the largest influence on your life? My mother worked at my school. She was always around, and I was always surrounded by education. That was always emphasized in my family. I remember my first set of encyclopedias; it was like the Internet back then. I was the first in my family to graduate college.
What attracted you to a dual-language program? Actually, I lost my Spanish for a while. I spoke English at school, and my parents wanted me to speak English at home so they could learn more. My Spanish had really diminished.
What made me go back and learn more Spanish again was so I could communicate with my family in Puerto Rico. I went for a visit and couldn't communicate well. I realized: This is my culture. This is where I'm from, and I really need to know both.
Last updated 3-31-13