Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!

Sylvia Landreth of Rockford has 16 years of experience teaching dual language. This is her fourth year at Fairview Early Childhood Center. With parents who didn’t speak English, she was playing the teacher role from an early age, helping siblings with homework and translating for her mom during school conferences. Her journey to a formal teaching degree was not a direct one, however. She served as an aide in Head Start and church preschool classrooms, then took mail-order courses for state licensure to run an in-home daycare. After moving to Rockford and sending her third of four children off to school, Sylvia realized she missed working with children. She found a job at La Voz Latina, helping new moms understand the development of their children. Her training through the agency motivated her to begin degree coursework. She started a job with the school district, working with young moms and their children, and then moved into a family support and screener position for the preschool program. Sylvia’s original plan upon graduating was to be a resource teacher for a few years, but she quickly fell in love with being a classroom teacher. The parent of one of her students shared that while her kids learned a lot from Sylvia, she also learned from her. She learned how to support her children’s learning processes and to never give up on them. On the autism spectrum disorder, with a speech delay and an auditory process disorder, this woman’s son was challenged yet supported every day in class. “Under Mrs. Sylvia’s guidance, my son started putting words together and finally he was able to ask for things that he wanted or needed.” Sylvia says that her teaching and community work experience and her formal education have taught her that “all children can learn and they have different ways to acquire knowledge. With the planning of each lesson and classroom station, I strive to provide the kind of environment and activities that engage their learning and their wonder.”  And every day before meals, the class recites a poem by Mexican songwriter Jose Luis Orozco. Sylvia says it reflects how she sees each child: “In this great big beautiful world, I am unique, I am special, full of love and intelligence.”