Eisenhower’s Ruben Gutiérrez receives an Excel Award from Granite School DistrictMay 02, 2022 08:56PM ● By Peri Kinder
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
In the highly diverse population at Eisenhower Junior High in Taylorsville, Ruben Núñez Gutiérrez’s work as a Spanish Dual Language Immersion teacher really stands out. His engaging content and contagious enthusiasm create an inclusive classroom where students learn to connect with both each other and the world around them.
Gutiérrez was selected as a recipient of the 2021-2022 Excel Award, recognizing him as one of the best teachers in Granite School District. As one of 10 recipients of this year’s award, he will vie for Granite’s Teacher of the Year.
Overjoyed and surprised by the recognition, Gutiérrez learned several students and parents had nominated him for the Excel Award.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is so amazing!’” Gutiérrez said. “I feel that I connect with my students. I feel that we have a classroom environment where they can talk to me. We’ve built confidence and trust.”
Gutiérrez earned a Master’s degree in history from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, teaching in his country for several years before coming to the States. He taught DLI at the elementary school level before taking the position at Eisenhower four years ago.
His curriculum consists of teaching seventh- and eighth-grade students how to speak, read and write in Spanish. English is not allowed in class. Topics he teaches include culture, history and media of the Latino world, covering art, literature and politics.
“They come to me and I make sure they’re ready to take the AP Spanish test in ninth grade and pass it,” he said. “They need to use Spanish with me and among themselves all the time.”
At Eisenhower, 32% of students come from bilingual families and 47% are Hispanic. Gutiérrez has gone out of his way to connect with the Spanish-speaking community in Taylorsville, working with parents who don’t speak English to help them understand their child’s school work and progress.
“When I came here from Spain, people were helping me so much and I want to give back what they gave to me,” he said. “It’s about building relationships and confidence and trust.”
Gutiérrez loves integrating technology into teaching. When teachers struggled to find a way to teach off-site, he created Utah Notebooks for his students. Using Google slides, he created audio and video files, creating engaging content to shape a better learning environment.
After COVID hit in 2020, he spent that summer creating lesson plans for Canvas, the district’s eLearning platform, for other Spanish teachers to use for the upcoming school year. He’s presented his work at conferences, instructing other educators about the value of online class content and how to make it fun.
“His students enjoy being in his class and they all like Mr. Gutiérrez,” said Eisenhower Junior High School Principal Mark Ellermeier. “He is a team player and always has a smile on his face. He cares about his students and goes the extra mile when working with them. All parents, students and coworkers think the world of Mr. Gutiérrez. Eisenhower Junior High is fortunate to have him as a teacher.”