Las Vegas elementary school teacher named National Teacher of the Year

Juliana Urtubey
Posted at 8:23 AM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 21:39:13-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Juliana Urtubey is the National Teacher of the Year and the first-ever from Nevada.

Clark County School District shared a tweet congratulating the Booker Elementary School teacher on Thursday.

Urtubey also took the award for Nevada Teacher of the Year and is the first Latina Nevada state teacher since 1992.

Gov. Steve Sisolak says she is a shining example of what public school educators are capable of.

“Juliana and I share the same belief that all students are capable of amazing things and that learning differences should not be a hindrance to success," he said.

She wanted to share her recognition with her fellow teachers in this pandemic year.

“It has been a very difficult and very challenging year, but we persevered because we counted on each other and worked together.”

Urtubey teaches special education students from kindergarten to fifth grade. It’s a specific group she’s passionate about, and many of her students know her as “Ms. Earth.” She was recognized for using gardens to spark a love of learning for her kids.

“The garden was a metaphor for having a growth mindset. The growth mindset is that you know you can learn and that the brain is malleable and that is powerful for kids with thinking and learning differences," she said.

She even got a meeting with first lady Dr. Jill Biden, creating a surreal moment for her.

“I thanked her for the change in tone in terms of education. As a fellow educator, she understands what it means when teachers understand the possibilities of their students.”

Urtubey is a first-generation immigrant from Colombia and had her family with her as she got her award. Her older sister impressed with her work as a teacher.

“She has a unique style of teaching and meets them where they are, and she builds the things around her. Connects the names and connects her communities,” Camila Englert said.

With a new and prominent platform, Urtubey says she wants to advocate for a “joyous and just education” for every student.

“Every student has a deep sense of belonging in their school because the school uplifts who they are,” she said.