This year, more than 700 Clark County School District educators were chosen as finalists for the Heart of Education award.
The Heart of Education award honors educators who go above and beyond for students in Clark County schools. Twenty Clark County teachers were awarded and among them is Filipina Ella Nava.
"Ecstatic po kasi I didn't know that I won. It was like a big, big surprise. It didn't sink in until I got the medal, until I got back on my chair," Nava admitted.
(I'm ecstatic because I didn't know that I won.)
Nava is among the first batch of special education teachers from the Philippines who got a J1 visa from the Clark County School District. She has been teaching children in the autism spectrum at Paradise Elementary School for five years.
"As a sped teacher lahat gagawin mo para maging effective teacher ka. For them to reach their IET goal, from head to feet, gagawin mo. You will provide everything for them. My classroom should be inviting for students to learn."
(As a special education teacher, you will do everything to be effective. For them to reach their IET goal, from head to feet, you will do everything.)
Nava was awarded $5,000 in cash and a $1,000 donation to a program of her choice. Bhile she's happy she got recognized as a teacher, she is sad that their J1 visas were not renewed. She is set to go back home to the Philippines in July.
"We are actually seeking extension but sadly we got a letter from the Department of State na wala ng extension. Sana mabawi namin yung hindi namin na-save for the last two years during the pandemic. Alam naman namin na J1 is only like a temporary relief for the shortage of teachers. Masakit umuwi kasi mas mahirap sa Pilipinas talaga," Nava shared.
(We are actually seeking extension but sadly, we got a letter from the Department of State that says there will be no extension. Hopefully, we recover those that we weren't able to save in the last two years during the pandemic. We know that J1 is only like a temporary relief for the shortage of teachers. It hurts because life in the Philippines is harder.)
Among the finalists are Filipino teachers with J1 visas as well like Edmon Miguel, Marielle Castro, and Mayflor Mercado.
"You are more motivated to work harder kasi nga you are well appreciated. Alam mo yung lahat ng pinagpaguran mo, ina-appreciate ka talaga ng coworkers mo regardless where we came from. Sobrang nakaka-proud lang talaga," Mercado noted.
(You are more motivated to work harder because you are well appreciated. You know that with all your hard work, you coworkers appreciate you regardless of where we came from. It really makes me proud.)
Meanwhile, Miguel said "I feel grateful and honored to accept the nomination... We put our heart to provide all their needs to be successful in life."
The Filipino teachers also hope that after two years, they will get to come back to the US to teach.
"For the next few days, weeks, I just want to make those moments and days happy for my students and treasure those experiences that I will be having with them," Miguel said.
The Clark County School District is the fifth largest school district in the US.