For Judy Marquez, solid teaching practice involves both the transference of knowledge and instilling in students a sense of value, confidence and tolerance.

Beyond the lessons, the tests and the grading sessions, Judy Marquez finds that her greatest reward as an educator isn’t rooted in witnessing the accomplishments of her students. Rather, it’s in watching them grow and develop into more confident, more tolerant and more collaborative individuals.

For Marquez, a Spanish language arts teacher at French Prairie Middle School in Woodburn, Oregon, the classroom serves as a place to build bridges between cultures, instill a sense of value in each student, and open minds to the perspectives around them.

“I demonstrate to my students how being unbiased and how embracing the amazing attributes that others have can be rewarding and a learning opportunity for all,” says Marquez, a 2021 graduate of George Fox University’s Master of Education program. “I encourage, practice and display collaborative engagement and hold myself accountable for my actions, because this is what I expect others to do as well."

“I do what I do because I want others to embrace their own qualities and to empower themselves with knowledge about different perspectives.”

Judy Marquez teaching in a classroom

She initially got into teaching because she was passionate about instilling a love of learning in her students. While that desire hasn’t changed, what motivates her most now is forming positive relationships with her charges, recognizing that instilling a sense of community and of worth is just as important – if not more so – than seeing students score high grades on their tests.

And sometimes, that’s best put into practice by asking simple questions.

In one particular instance, a student was struggling in and out of school and had behavioral issues that led to poor social skills. Marquez wanted to find out what was at the root of his struggles. “I knew he didn’t trust others easily and that he didn’t have friends to talk to about what was going on, but I decided to ask him why he was acting the way he was,” she recalls.

In a low voice, he responded, “Soy malo porque todos me dicen que soy malo” (“I’m bad because everyone tells me I’m bad.”).

“That touched my heart, and at the end of the school year he gifted me a thin red bracelet that I still wear on a daily basis,” she says. “I’m not going to say that after the incident he trusted me and engaged more with me, but I will say that that day I gave him a little love in a small way that gave him a sense of belonging in school. To me, the bracelet is a reminder of how we never know what people are going through.”

Judy Marquez

Such incidents are making their mark on Marquez as well. “I believe I empathize more with people now than I did before being a teacher,” she says.

She credits the education she received at George Fox for preparing her for the rigors of teaching while modeling for her what it means to be an educator who cares.

“What I liked most about George Fox is the fact that the faculty is authentic and truly cares about one’s success,” she says. “The learning environment helped me grow intellectually because the instructors and support staff dedicated their time to ensuring that everyone walked away feeling accomplished and successful. They also worked tirelessly to assure that we all were demonstrating our full potential so that once we were in the classroom we felt completely equipped and confident.”

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