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Hillary Park '92 in the Running for National Teaching Award

This month Hillary Park ’92, a Spanish teacher at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, California, won the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Teacher Award for the San Diego area, making her one of 12 finalists for the institute’s prestigious National Teacher Award that will be presented at a ceremony in Washington D.C. on October 9. Hers is among a series of awards given annually by the HHF, a national organization dedicated to identifying leaders in the Latino community. Past HHF honorees include baseball player Sammy Sosa and singer Gloria Estefan.

After graduating from Grossmont High in 1988, Park packed her bags for Pomona, where she was an English literature major and three-sport athlete. “I was definitely challenged in every aspect,” Park says, “with classes, discussions with peers, and expectations from professors and coaches,” Her coursework with Spanish Professor Maria Donapetry and her abroad experience in Sevilla, Spain, further solidified her desire to pursue a Spanish-related profession. After college, she returned to Grossmont, where she has taught Spanish for 14 years.

Park has been praised for her innovative teaching methods, including Spanish-immersion trips to Costa Rica and weekly “charlas” (based on the Oldenborg language tables at Pomona) in which students have lunch with native speakers. “My approach is to engage students in the learning process and require them to be active learners,” Park says. She was nominated for the HHF award by one of her students, Diana Crafts-Pelayo, who won a college scholarship through the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

Former Grossmont student Tyler Barbour ’09 seconds the endorsement: “Because of Hillary and her A.P Spanish language course, I decided to be an international relations major at Pomona and study abroad,” he says. “She has a passion for Spanish that is contagious.”

For Park, the thrill in teaching stems from seeing progress in her students’ abilities and confidence levels. “I love when they finally begin to speak and construct conversations,” she says. “I try to lead them without showing them the exact path. I want them to make their own discoveries.”

For more information on the HHF and its awards, visit www.hispanicheritage.org.--Adam Conner-Simons ‘08