James teacher honored with annual award

Tony Parra

For the second year in a row, a James Elementary teacher has won the Newspapers In Education Teacher of the Year Award. Alfreda Sigala, a second-grade bilingual teacher at James Elementary School, won the award for the Portales area.
Sigala said she has been working as a James Elementary teacher for four years. Bernice Ortega, NIE Coordinator, presented her with the marble apple award on Tuesday.
“We do a lot of activities with the newspaper,” Sigala said. “It’s helped our Spanish-speaking students learn English. We use it to help them spell. It’s also helped them make a connection with the community.”
Sigala said in one of the activities, she split up the students into groups of six and they were given a budget. The students would then search through the classified sections to research prices on apartments for rent and the cost of building a new house.
“They come up with their own ideas,” Sigala said. “They love to read about current events. They also answer the Kidspeak question in their journals and they enjoy KidScoop on Fridays.”
Ortega said she finds out the creativity teachers use to implement the newspaper in their teachings.
“I determine who best uses the newspapers in the classrooms in different areas of their (teachers’) curriculum,” Ortega said. “It’s hard because a lot of teachers do a good job of using it in their classrooms. In many instances, it’s something that catches my eye.”
Ortega said she received five or six nominations for teacher of the year from the Portales area. She said she interviews the nominees to determine the winner.
“She really cares about her students and she works very hard to help them,” James Elementary Principal Michael Terry said. “We’re very honored to use the newspaper as a tool for the students.”
Terry said Debbie Young, a teacher from James Elementary, won the award last year. Ortega said Young was able to cure a student’s fear over going to the bathroom in a creative way. According to Ortega, the student was afraid to go to the bathroom because the walls were empty and Young used the comics as wallpaper and it made the student feel comfortable.
Ortega also said she’s appreciative of Southwest Dairy Farmers, a sponsor for the program, which pays for the cost of newspapers at each of the schools.