Marilyn Barrueta, a Spanish teacher at Yorktown High School, and Dr. Karen Crow Roark, of Long Branch Elementary, were inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame this month, making Arlington the first community in America to have two teachers selected for the honor in the same year.
A 48-year veteran of Arlington schools, Barrueta was lauded by Superintendent Robert Smith for her dedication to teaching and her talent for teaching foreign languages.
Barrueta said her love of teaching stems from a love of learning.
"As a teacher, I've managed to make a living doing what I've always loved," she said. "There's a joy you get when you can help to get someone to pick up on a lesson they find challenging."
Barrueta, who studied in Brazil and at the University of Illinois before becoming a teacher, said part of being a teacher comes from an understanding of how students react in the classroom.
"What most people don't realize is that there's a catalytic effect when it comes to students in class," she said. "The reasons a student is there — if they want to be there or if they feel like their parents are making them — has a huge bearing on it."
The classroom, she said, can be unpredictable. Success in teaching can be much the same way.
"A lot of times, it can't be anticipated," she said. "You just hope."
Among her accomplishments as an educator, Barrueta said she is proud of her work opening up advanced placement classes to more students.
Changes in the education field, she added, have greatly influenced the attitudes of students and parents over the years.
"In my 48 years, I have seen a lot of changes," Barrueta said. "Students these days feel like they are judged just on the numbers they produce," said Barrueta. "There's too much emphasis, sometimes from the parents, on resume building."
AT LONG BRANCH, Roark has served as both a teacher and administrator since 2003, when she relocated from Georgia. There she taught as a gifted and talented and as a special education teacher for more than 20 years.
Roark was inducted into the Georgia Teacher Hall of Fame in 2003 and was named Georgia Elementary Science Teacher of the Year in 2000.
Roark tries to make her lessons "life relevant." As an example, she pointed to a recent science lesson where she brought a pair of architects into the classroom to help her students build a model of the Wilson Bridge.
"I always try to bring in new ideas," Roark said. "Giving up your free time and going above and beyond the curriculum is always worth it."
Teaching, she said, is a joy.
"What I like…is seeing the little light bulbs go on in their heads," she said.
Smith praised Roark for her creativity in the classroom. Her students said Roark makes creativity a daily part of her lessons.
"We've made worms out of clay to learn about science and we draw lots of pictures," said kindergartener Gabby Brenhaum, who added that Roark always takes time out to talk to students one-on-one.
Third-grader Nate Welsh said Roark even makes complicated math lessons fun. "She's a good teacher," he said.
Roark said teaching is not without its challenges.
"The biggest challenge is paperwork," she said, laughing. "Really, the biggest challenge is making sure that every student succeeds. When one fails, you as a teacher think of yourself as a failure."