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Lozano Named Featured Alumnus
Perseverance pushed Waubonsee Community College alum Maria Lozano through years of juggling work, school and child rearing to a fulfilling career today as the Director of English Language Learners for West Aurora School District #129. She learned about the eventual rewards of dogged determination from watching her parents, who left their families and familiar surroundings in Mexico to make a better life for their children here when she was a young child. In recognition of her tireless transformation from bilingual student to bilingual educator and leader, Waubonsee named Lozano its Student Success: Featured Alumnus for October 2015.
Born in Monterrey Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Lozano moved with her family to East Aurora when she was five-years-old. She attended Oak Park Elementary School, Simmons Middle School and East Aurora High School, then became a certified teaching assistant after graduating high school in 1982. Throughout those years, Lozano would often think of her father, a hard worker who always managed to provide for his family in spite of limited education and a language barrier. She grew up watching him reading a dictionary and practicing English with neighbors and co-workers.
“He sacrificed, leaving his family behind to give his family a better life,” she said. “Both my parents having only a sixth grade education were brave to leave Mexico and start a new life in Aurora.”
That is why there was no one better suited to understand the trials and triumphs in a bilingual classroom than Lozano. For 10 years, she put her personal experiences to work as a bilingual teacher’s assistant at Beaupre Elementary School. But while helping out in the classroom by day and raising her four children at night, Lozano dreamed of doing more. A single mother, she applied for a grant and qualified. That push gave her what she needed to turn opportunity into reality, and she began taking night classes at Waubonsee.
“What stands out the most for me was that class sizes were small enough that we could engage in great dialog with all my teachers,” she said. “They knew me by name.”
Lozano said her algebra and biology teachers in particular went above and beyond to make sure she was always prepared for exams.
“I have learned to never give up on a dream despite obstacles that get in the way,” she said.
Lozano said she is living proof that it is never too late to get a degree: In 1995, she completed her associate degree at Waubonsee and transferred to Aurora University, graduating in the fall of 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She was hired by West Aurora School District #129 as a second grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary, but her professional and academic goals still weren’t finished: Lozano went on to earn a Master of Arts of Educational Leadership from Aurora University in 2003, and continued teaching for 12 years, eventually moving into her current position in administration.
This year marks her sixth as the Director of English Language Learners, a fitting role for someone who has been bridging a world of two languages for her entire life. She knows exactly the opportunity and challenges at stake in her district’s bilingual classrooms.
“Having been a second language learner myself at a time when bilingual programs did not exist, I recall how difficult it was for me to learn both content and language in a general education classroom,” she said. “I am motivated by having the opportunity to be part of a team of teachers and administrators who specialize in providing our English Language Learners a program that meets both their academic and language needs.”
Lozano said the future is bright for others who want to work in her field.
“With the growing population of English Language Learners, our need for ESL/Bilingual Endorsed teachers is on the rise and in high demand,” she said. “I was recruited prior to graduating with my teaching degree and now in my position, I begin to recruit in January for the following year.”