Staff Spotlight: Dolly Guzman, Owner of Dolly Guzman Educational Services
What first made you interested in education? How long have you been teaching?
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Marini inspired me to be an educator. The way that she made learning fun everyday was how I envisioned my career choice would be. She made me feel as if she was personally invested in me as a learner. One memory I treasured and utilized in my classroom when I became an educator was “Teacher of the Day.” She chose a student to teach the other students during morning meeting. I was chosen often and it instilled in me confidence, responsibility for my learning, and a sense of leadership within my peers. Mrs. Marini also shared her personal life by bringing her daughter and husband to the classroom on various occasions. This humanized her. I felt like her family, which is something that I instilled in my classroom as well. I wanted my students to know that we were all family. We were there for each other, responsible for each other academically and on a social/emotional level. I wanted my students to know that I was human, someone who makes mistakes and lives a normal life.
I have been an educator for 29 years. I got my first teaching job at the age of 14 at a day care center.
How has being bilingual impacted your career as an educator?
Being bilingual has had such a positive impact throughout my teaching career. It has afforded me many opportunities. I was capable of communicating with my families who didn’t speak English. I was able to make my families feel comfortable in an educational environment that can be extremely intimidating when you don’t speak or understand English. I also served as a translator for my fellow colleagues when there was a language barrier. When I participated as the general education teacher during child study team meetings and translated for parents, I saw that they needed someone to assist them in navigating this complicated and intimidating special education process. This is one of the reasons that inspired me to become a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant.
What advice do you have for parents and guardians who want to be the best advocates possible for their students?
My first statement to parents on the first day of school and my final statement that I placed at the end of my monthly newsletters was, “You are your child’s first teacher.” I would also tell them you are your child’s best advocate. You know your child best so you can be your child’s voice and advocate for them. Your partnership throughout their academic path is vital and essential in your child receiving the best education possible no matter if your child is in an urban or suburban school district. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, ask questions. Remain respectful, graceful, steadfast, and vigilant when advocating for your child’s right to a free and appropriate education. Keep all documents and communication from the school as it pertains to your child. Most importantly, show up and be present, at all meetings, programs, and especially board of education meetings.
After working with such a variety of students for so many years, what are some of the benefits you’ve noticed with one-on-one tutoring?
After being in the classroom for so many years, I find that the best benefit with one-to-one tutoring is being able to teach a concept to mastery. In the classroom, the demands of meeting district and state mandates and timelines does not allow for teaching a concept to mastery. Many concepts are “flash-exposed” to students, taught within a few days and then assessed. Special education settings may be afforded some extra time but the demands of standardized assessments and fulfilling educator effectiveness evaluation goals affect the quality of instruction. Tutoring one-to-one allows me to teach my students a concept to mastery, utilizing various resources and evidence-based strategies, without the pressure of meeting timelines.
By The Tailored Tutoring LLC Writing Staff