Colombian Immigrant Honored at White House As 2021 National Teacher of the Year

Lead Photo: Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images.
Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images.
Read more

Juliana Urtubey, the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, got her chance to visit the White House Monday (October 18) for a ceremony to honor her achievements as an educator.

A first-generation Colombian immigrant, Urtubey became the first Latina to receive the distinction since 2005. She earned the title in March, but the ceremony was postponed because of the pandemic. It was also put on hold last year, so joining Urubey at this year’s ceremony was 2020 honoree Tabatha Rosproy and other state winners. Also in attendance were President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

Urtubey is a bilingual elementary special education teacher at Booker Elementary School in Las Vegas and a National Board-certified instructor for pre-kindergarten through 5th-grade students. She also supports her students’ academic, emotional, and behavioral needs as an instructional strategist.

“As a special education teacher, my job is to make sure my students see themselves the way I see them, with all their possibilities and abilities to improve their school community,” Urtubey said during the ceremony.

The First Lady thanked Urtubey and her colleagues for the “small miracles that teachers across the country perform in their classroom every single day.”

US First Lady Jill Biden applauds 2021 Teacher of the Year Juliana Urtubey as she attends the Council of Chief State School Officers’ 2020 and 2021 State and National Teachers of the Year at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2021. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Read more

Over the last two years, it’s become more evident than ever how important teachers are to students’ educational and overall well-being. Dr. Biden said during the pandemic, “teachers found new and innovative ways to connect” and did their best to create a cohesive learning environment during uncertain times.

“You worked long hours, you reworked those lesson plans … overnight, and you reimagined what a classroom could be,” she said. “We’re still wrestling with the challenges of this pandemic, but you and teachers like you across the country found the courage and the strength to keep going.”