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Dr.-Alda-BenavidesLA JOYA — Dr. Alda T. Benavides, superintendent of La Joya Independent School District, has been named Distinguished Bilingual Educator of the Year by the Rio Grande Valley-Texas Association for Bilingual Educators (RGV-TABE).

RGV-TABE officially recognized Benavides on Jan. 18 at its annual conference on South Padre Island. She was awarded for her contributions to the Bilingual Education Program in the La Joya school district.

“I don’t give myself credit,” Benavides said in an interview on Tuesday. “I credit every teacher in every bilingual classroom that works with bilingual children everyday.”

Members of the RGV-TABE executive board that selected Benavides for the award include bilingual educators from around the Rio Grande Valley.

Educators are selected after reviewing nomination forms sent to the group. To be awarded the recognition, the individual must be a school district administrator involved in bilingual/dual or English as a Second Language (ESL) programming. The educator must also attend second language learning conferences, as well as understand the importance of bilingual education.

Benavides was awarded for her promotion of the bilingual/dual language instruction at La Joya and her involvement in education organizations like RGV-TABE.

Of LJISD’s student population of over 29,000, the district has identified 13,617 as bilingual students.

“Serving bilingual children is a passion of mine,” Benavides said. “Especially since I’m a second language learner.”

The district works to ensure all its students, including the second language learners, become successful in school.

“It’s the right thing to do for children,” she said.

Success breeds success and Benavides said research shows that with the proper guidance in their bilingual education, second language students can do better than above average in school.

“It’s always neat to see bilingual kids out perform monolingual kids,” she said. “Research does show that – you’re as strong in your second language as your first.”

Along with succeeding in the classroom, bilingual students who come to the district only knowing one language first, eventually gain the confidence of their monolingual peers to join extracurricular activities and clubs, she said.

“Their self-esteem will definitely grow,” Benavides said. “And that’s another thing I want for our second language learners.”

Currently, the district is reviewing its bilingual program to identify ways to improve its structure to allow LJISD students to succeed in two languages.

“They’re more marketable,” she said of bilingual graduates, “especially in the Valley.”

Benavides graduated from La Joya High School in 1971 and attended the University of Texas-Pan American where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and English. She has a superintendent certification and other certifications for mid-management administrator, counselor, supervisor, elementary self-contained and bilingual/ESL.

Before becoming La Joya’s superintendent in 2006, Benavides served the district as principal of Kika De La Garza Elementary and E.B. Reyna Elementary. She received a National Distinguished Principal Award for her leadership in 1997.

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