Spanish teacher and Army veteran Jorge Pulleiro is Idaho’s 2020-21 teacher of the year.
Pulleiro teaches in the dual immersion program at Hailey’s Wood River Middle School. A blue-ribbon panel selected Pulleiro as teacher of the year from more than 170 nominees. He will act as a spokesman for Idaho’s teachers in the coming year and as the state’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award.
“For Jorge and his students, learning a language goes far beyond classroom conversations and learning how to conjugate verbs,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a news release. “His work and philosophy exemplify the concept of dual immersion: English teachers absorb Spanish language and culture, and English language learners help and learn from their peers.”
Pulleiro’s teaching career started at age 19, when he began teaching English in his native Argentina. He moved from Buenos Aires to study Spanish translation and interpretation at Brigham Young University, and later spent six years in the U.S. Army. Pulleiro was recognized by the White House and Department of Defense in 2014 as an example of the Troops to Teachers program, which helps veterans transition into K-12 classrooms.
Pulleiro taught for seven years in John Day, Ore., before moving to Hailey. In Oregon, he doubled the size of the high school Spanish program in three years, and coordinated visits with foreign exchange students from Argentina and Spain, according to the local paper, the Blue Mountain Eagle. In Hailey, he started an exchange program where eighth-graders trade places with students from Madrid for three weeks. One year his students got to meet the King of Spain.
Wood River Middle School principal Fritz Peters told the State Department of Education that Pulleiro’s students consistently leave his eighth-grade class with high intermediate and advanced Spanish skills. The district’s dual immersion program also helps meet the needs of English language learners, who make up some 20 percent of all Blaine County students, Fritz said.
Pulleiro wrote in his Teacher of the Year application that his teaching style is “all about relationships.”
“Drop any lesson plans and be there for those kiddos,” he wrote. “Be there for them when sadness and tragedy come upon them. Believe in them and make sure they know you do. Laugh and cry with them. Let those students know that you too are human with problems and feelings.”