Educator Profile    Educators

Vanessa Torres (SC '16)


Nursery Road Elementary School Arts Magnet
Columbia, SC

Subject(s) taught: Spanish
Grade(s): Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

At the time of the Award, Vanessa Torres was:

Nursery Road Elementary School
Columbia, SC

Subject(s) taught: Spanish
Grade(s): K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Biographical Information

Vanessa Torres brings the Spanish language to life for the students of Nursery Road Elementary School Arts Magnet. 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 magnet school of excellence. 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 currently developing an elementary school based Spanish curriculum. 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.

Press release: "Gracias, Señora Torres!" Spanish Teacher Vanessa Torres of Columbia, South Carolina, Clinches Milken Educator Award and $25,000

Related Connections

Article: Making World Languages Engaging and Relevant

Article: World Language Instruction Should Start in Elementary School. Here's Why.

Article: Building Bridges: Legislators in the Classroom

Article: Spotlight: Vanessa Torres (SC '16)

Educator Quote:

"My father's influence really turned me on to education...." (read more)

Vanessa Torres In The News

Want to Keep Teachers in the Classroom? Show ’em a Little Love
The State  |  Jul 21, 2017  |  Columbia, SC

Advice From 2016-17 Milken Educators: How to Create a Successful Classroom
Education Week Teacher  |  Dec 08, 2016  |  Bethesda, MD

Nursery Road Teacher Presented with Milken Educator Award
The New Irmo news  |  Dec 07, 2016  |  Irmo, SC

Irmo Spanish Teacher Wins Top Award
The State  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  Columbia, SC

Nursery Road Elementary Teacher Surprised with "Oscar of Teaching"
WACH-TV  |  FOX  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  Columbia, SC

Watch: Midlands Spanish Teacher Earns National Award
WLTX-TV  |  CBS  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  Columbia, SC

¡Ay Caramba: Columbia Spanish Teacher Nabs Major Award
Lexington County Chronicle/Cola Daily  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  Columbia, SC

Spanish Teacher Vanessa Torres of Columbia Clinches Milken Educator Award and $25,000
ETV  |  PBS  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  Columbia, SC