Vanessa Torres brings the Spanish language to life for the students of Nursery Road Elementary School. Torres, the school's Spanish teacher, immerses students in learning the language with storytelling, skits, games, songs, salsa dancing, and peso point prize raffles—all conducted entirely in Spanish. When Torres and her students meet in the halls, they greet each other and converse in Spanish. At the end of the year, Torres takes her students to a local Mexican restaurant so they can practice their language skills in a real-world setting.
Torres teaches all students from kindergarten through fifth grade at Nursery Road Elementary, a high-performing Title I school. Her classes include a large number of students with disabilities. She excels at differentiating her classroom activities to engage students at all levels, from special education to gifted and talented. Torres invigorated the Spanish program at Nursery Road Elementary, engaging students, parents, teachers and the community. Now students practice their Spanish songs and dances at home and look forward to their weekly Spanish lessons with Torres. More than 80% of Torres' students exceeded their 80%+ accuracy goals on the assessments Torres developed to track their progress. Torres aligns her assessments to her standards and the State SLO/GBE (Student Learning Objectives/Goals-Based Evaluation).
Known for her unbridled energy, Torres inspires her colleagues with her infectious passion for teaching. She works with teachers in all content areas to connect her Spanish curriculum with their standards and instruction. Torres chairs the Nursery Road Elementary Walk to School, a successful event that brings students, parents and community members together to walk students to school. To boost student participation, Torres convinced local athletic stores to donate clothing and sporting equipment, then held grade-level drawings in which participants won footballs, bicycles and more. She also led the school's efforts in the District Five Dance Marathon, a benefit for a local children's hospital; Nursery Road Elementary topped the district in participation and fundraising.
Torres serves on numerous committees, attends World Language Teacher Leader meetings, and is helping Nursery Road Elementary in its efforts to become an Arts Integration school. When district visitors observe at the school, they stop in Torres' classroom. Torres can be counted on for special projects at the school and district. She choreographs musical numbers tied to instructional themes during Nursery Road Elementary's twice-yearly all-school performances. Though Torres landed close to home—she is a Columbia, South Carolina, native and graduated as valedictorian from Columbia High School—she has studied abroad in Spain, Costa Rica and Indonesia.
Torres earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and sociology from Furman University in 2003 and a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and intercultural studies from Columbia International University in 2005.
"My father's influence really turned me on to education. When I was a little girl, he would work nights and spend days with me and..." (read more)