Harvard Graduate School of Education is pleased to announce that Juliana Urtubey, the National Teacher of the Year for 2021–2022, will address this year’s graduating class and their families at Convocation on May 25, 2022.
Urtubey, a first-generation, bilingual immigrant who works to nurture her students’ sense of pride in themselves and their communities, is a special education teacher and instructional strategist at the Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School in Las Vegas. She serves children in preK–5 special education classrooms and develops supports to help meet a variety of academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.
“As the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, Juliana Urtubey is a shining example of the extraordinary role teachers can play in the lives of their students and communities,” says Dean Bridget Long. “She is a fierce advocate for inclusive education that celebrates all identities, and the important work she is doing as a bilingual and special education teacher resonates at a time when educators and families around the world grapple with the repercussions of a two-year pandemic. Juliana's selection as the HGSE Convocation speaker is especially meaningful and timely in the context of the recent historic gift to HGSE in support of financial aid for aspiring and experienced teachers and our substantial investment in advancing the teaching profession. I know her words will be uplifting for our graduates and their families, as well as for our faculty, staff, and alumni.”
As the National Teacher of the Year, and throughout her career, Urtubey has advocated for an education that not only embraces all facets of a student’s identity, family, and community but also celebrates it — and encourages students to do the same. She believes that schools and classrooms should reflect the passion, values, and wisdom of students, families, and the surrounding community.
“I firmly hold the belief that education transforms,” Urtubey said when speaking at the State and National Teachers of the Year Ceremony at the White House. “In the face of marginalization, classrooms that include and encourage all students to learn and grow, we nurture our students’ identities as a point of pride. We humanize our students and their families. We know that with the right access, all of our students can soar. When we wrap our collective arms around students’ identities, we have the ability to build a society that is more joyous and just.”
In her own practice, Urtubey has celebrated students and their cultures on school walls in colorful murals. Known affectionately as “Ms. Earth,” she’s also raised funds for two garden programs at two Las Vegas Schools and runs the Garden Gnomies club. The gardens have served as places for students to gather, build, and nurture green spaces on school grounds. These beautification projects have not only been sources of joy but offer innovative and intergenerational learning opportunities for students, families, and the wider community.
She knows that this graduating class of educators will continue to find bright spots to inspire and engage students.
“Our nation’s students — bright, diverse, and inspiring learners of all ages — deserve an equitable education that sets them up for success long term,” says Urtubey. “The graduating class of 2022 has much to look forward to as they take their dedication and expertise into classrooms, school districts and state departments of education and work in service of those students.”
Urtubey is a National Board Certified Teacher, a member and fellow of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Board of Directors, a Nevada Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow, an Understood Teacher Fellow and mentor, and the winner of the 2018 Rogers Foundation Heart of Education award.