Teresa Huerta, associate professor of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education at Fresno State, was recognized by the Association of Mexican American Educators as the 2015 Educator of the Year.
A first-generation graduate and the only member of her family to earn a doctorate, Huerta was born in Fresno and raised in Visalia. She earned her bachelor’s degree and teaching credential at Fresno State, then taught in Fresno Unified School District for a couple years before earning her master’s at San Diego State.
Her interest at the time was in bilingual education and the instruction of linguistically and culturally diverse students.
“I thought I wanted to become a principal, because I really wanted to make a difference for all children, but particularly language minority children,” Huerta said. “When I was a teacher, I saw a lot of capability in these kids, and progress. However, the research highlighted the challenges of teaching language and culturally diverse students. This piqued my interest in learning more about this disparity and as a result led me to want to be a researcher.”
A friend encouraged Huerta to apply for doctorate studies at Harvard University so they could study there together. “It changed my life,” she said. “I couldn’t let that idea go.”
Although her friend never applied for admission to Harvard, Huerta did, and was accepted.
“In many ways I am a trail blazer,” she said. “I come from the Valley. San Diego was a big move, and now here I was at Harvard. Very few people I know have been there before me. I was determined. I got my doctoral degree.”
Huerta completed post-doctoral work at Arizona State and joined the faculty at Fresno State eight years ago.
She was nominated for the recognition from the Association of Mexican American Educators by her Fresno State colleagues Dr. Susan Tracz, professor of educational research and administration, and Dr. Berta Gonzalez, emerita professor of curriculum and instruction.
Huerta was active with the Association of Mexican American Educators throughout her career. “The Association of Mexican American Educators is about the Mexican-American struggle,” she said. “That’s very close to my heart.”
Working with Gonzaelz and Tracz, Huerta wrote a proposal for a master’s in education with an option for multilingual/multicultural education, which is now offered at Fresno State. She is also part of the Bilingual Authorization Program, which provides future teachers with skills to teach in bilingual and dual language programs.
“It’s one of the few programs of its kind offering Hmong certification in the nation,” she said.
Huerta also is part of a teacher residency program in partnership with Fresno Unified School District to help prepare teachers to meet needs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“I try to get them excited about teaching and looking at what other successful teachers have done in working with linguistically and culturally diverse students,” she said. “This is a way to help build the Valley.”