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Cynthia Meza earns CABE Teacher of the Year award

Cynthia MezaCynthia Meza, a Spanish bilingual/immersion teacher at Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School, has won the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) 2016 Teacher of the Year award. She is being recognized for her excellence, dedication and promotion of bilingual education and to the education of English learners.

"I am very honored," says Meza. "But it's more than an honor. It shows that CABE values the importance of a commitment to social justice in education."

Meza was born in Los Angeles, CA, but also lived in Mexico as she grew up. Her family had to move often, which resulted in her changing schools quite a bit, sometimes in the middle of the school year.

"It exposed me to a lot of teachers, and I learned how some provided a safe place for a child like me to thrive and learn, but some did not."

Meza became inspired to go into bilingual education herself to create the welcoming, safe and culturally-rich environment she knows all students need. She wants her students to feel excited to come to school as they anticipate the lessons and activities for the day.

Meza has spent her entire 13-year career as a Spanish bilingual teacher at Flynn Elementary.

She has advice for those thinking of following in her footsteps.

"You have to know—or be completely willing to know—the community your students live in. You need to do whatever it takes to understand what kids go home to each night and what's going on in their community, and intentionally integrate who they are and where they come from in the day to day of their classroom experience."

Meza adds that her outlook on her work is far reaching.

"It's important that we look at children in terms of where they're going to be in five, ten, 20 years," she says. "And always keep in mind that we are modeling for the children by what we do."

Meza will receive the award during the Educator and Parent of the Year Awards Luncheon at 12 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, 2016 in the Continental Ballroom at Hilton Hotel in San Francisco.