Every student is a star in bilingual teacher Zulema Williams-Santa Ana's third-grade classroom at Dora Romero Elementary in Brownsville, Texas. A successful actress on Mexican television for many years, Williams-Santa Ana began teaching at Laureles Elementary School in 2005, and has since energized her students and the school with her commitment, enthusiasm, creativity and instructional excellence.
When her students find a mouse or a pregnant spider in their classroom, Williams-Santa Ana turns the moment into an impromptu lesson, using technology to facilitate whole-class observation and prompting students to write about the experience. She integrates reading, science and math into the curriculum through active, hands-on, real-world activities, often outside the classroom. Williams-Santa Ana and her colleagues have helped Laureles students achieve the highest reading scores in the district, with almost every third grader passing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. When her third graders were allowed to take the fifth-grade TAKS, 70 percent passed.
Williams-Santa Ana, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Brownsville, reaches out to parents and families, many of whose homes were flooded by hurricanes, and helps them learn how to help their children at home with their schoolwork. She provides leadership in Laureles' campus improvement plan, has mentored other third-grade teachers and presented instructional strategies at various conferences. She has also taught courses in Spanish and English conversation at the Language Institute at University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
2002 University of Texas-Brownsville; Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Science. /Current Ph.D student at UTRGV