By Hannah Simon
Katrina Diaz, a beloved member of the Tarrant County Jewish community, has won the 2020 DFW Bilingual/ESL Education Association of the Metroplex (BEAM) Teacher of the Year award. She will advance to the state competition in October for Bilingual Educators. Bilingual/English as a Second Language teachers who demonstrate outstanding teaching and exemplary professional service are recognized in this prestigious competition. Diaz was required to submit an application containing the following information: her philosophy of education, community service, professional development and experience. She has been a teacher in the White Settlement Independent School District for the last six years, and continues to serve as the English Language Specialist. Roughly 6% of the student body at Brewer High School is involved in the Bilingual/ESL program.
Diaz graduated from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. She received her Master of Arts degree in Bilingual Education, Dual Language and English as a Second Language with a minor in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas Permian Basin.
She teaches students who have come to America from other countries. Other than Spanish, she does not speak their languages, so she builds relationships with them as a foundation to help them trust her and then want to engage in their own learning. Her focus is to provide her students with a safe space to make goals for the future, empower them with academics, and then work toward their goals, whether they be vocational training or a four-year university.
Diaz has been active in the Jewish Community since she worked at the Fort Worth Hebrew Day School in 2001, where she taught Israeli kids English. She served on the Jewish Education Agency board of directors. She was the Beth-El Religious School Coordinator, a Lil Goldman teacher, the Camp Shalom curriculum coordinator, and she worked at Ahavath Sholom in the religious school. Out of all of her Jewish communal work, she spent the most time working at Ahavath Sholom.
Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom said, “Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that ‘it is better to be a textperson than a textbook.’ In other words, one who lives by example. Thereby the information and values that they have learned is not theoretical but real and alive. Katrina is a ‘textperson’ for she upholds the values of ‘loving thy neighbor as thyself’ both in theory and in practice. She does this not only be exemplifying the holiness of mitzvot, but also by living a holy and mitzvah-filled life. We are proud of her at Congregation Ahavath Sholom for all that she does for the shul and especially our youth. The award is well deserved and she is a true inspiration and example for us all.”
Diaz is married to Neal Bailey. They have two sons; younger son Jacob, 14, had his bar mitzvah last summer, and Ethan, 17, is a teacher’s aide at Ahavath Sholom.