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Teacher Appreciation Week: Lydia Garza, INCS Charter Excellence Awards Elementary Teacher of the Year

Posted on: May 4, 2021

As part of Teacher Appreciation Week 2021, INCS is honoring the extraordinary work of teachers everywhere, including the charter public school teachers throughout Illinois. Few better illustrate the value of great teachers than the latest INCS Charter Excellence Award winners, recognized for their contributions to their profession, their schools, and – most importantly – their students. 

Lydia Garza

Dual Language 2nd-5th Diverse Learner Teacher
Namaste Charter School

How many years you have been at your school:  I’ve been at Namaste for the past 17 years, I’m a founding teacher at Namaste.  My first 6 years at Namaste, I was the Dual Language Kindergarten Teacher.  Since 2010, I have been the Dual Language Diverse Learner Teacher.

How many years you have been in education:
I’ve been in the education field for 17 years, Namaste has been my home since the beginning.

What is your favorite part of working in a charter school in Illinois? 
My favorite part of working at Namaste has always been the teacher autonomy since day one, with other things that have been in place for teachers and staff.

Having choices, having clear expectations, having meetings about what works for our students and making changes with admin support,  being provided with weekly professional development as I continue to grow as a teacher. After all these years, knowing that I work with a community of teachers who are passionate about teaching students at Namaste have made me continue my career at Namaste.

What made you want to pursue a career at a charter school?
One of the  reasons that I  interviewed at Namaste, was because of the idea of “educating children from the inside outside”. Namaste was founded with the idea of  health and wellness as a whole when teaching students, we even provided a healthy salad bar when providing lunch. The idea of starting and being a strong foundation for kindergarteners that spoke Spanish was a big plus. I always wanted to teach in Spanish to native Spanish speakers, I found my home when I first interviewed with Ms. Allison Slade in 2004.

What is your fondest memory/proudest moment of working in education?
So many, probably the first time I saw my 1st kindergarten students graduate from Namaste in 8th grade, I cried so much, I just could not believe my 5 years old were going to be going to high school soon.

Also, when my kinder students from the first few years at Namaste, come back to visit and ask for Ms. Garza (pre-pandemic, of course) and talk about memories from Kindergarten in Spanish and of Namaste, especially when we look at past yearbooks.

What is the favorite part of your job?
Working with families, being a team with parents of students I teach has always been very rewarding.  Respecting families beliefs and having clear communication to support my DL’s students make us a good “team”.