We had the opportunity to meet Zulaika Quintero through our photo-share in Southwest Florida. As the principal of a local public charter school, she has tailored the school’s curriculum to meet the needs of the children in her community. “Everything is taught in both languages and that enables them to leave our school with three things; being bi-lingual, being bi-literate and being bi-cultural.” The majority of children attending the school come from families who work in the Florida farming industry or are migrant workers. Teachers are also able to provide one-on-one attention to their students by capping classes at 18 children and are accompanied by an instructional aide.
The school runs a program that allows parents to take a course on computer technology. Quintero, “graduated 13 parents last year who were able to get a Chromebook and understand how their scholars will use the computer.” For all the families involved, this was the first time they were able to have a computer and internet – provided at a reduced price- in the home. She is ushering in a new way of engaging her students by providing them with the tools that will aid them as they grow older, go on to post secondary education and enter the workplace.
Principal Quintero is in a unique position to understand her student’s needs because of her own background. In a photo-share with a group of 6th graders, she talked about her own family ties to farm life. Growing up, she migrated with her family to North Carolina in order to pick bell peppers, tomato and zucchini for the Summer. Hearing about her story allows the students to open up about their own experiences.
“My dad worked in a ranch that had watermelons. He went to New Jersey for about two months in the summer. And it was pretty sad because I didn’t see him until the end of Summer.” – Jada
“This is my mom when she celebrated her 15th birthday, and she’s wearing a pink dress ’cause that was her favorite color” – Jennifer
“This one is a picture of me and my sister, we were playing around and my mom decided to take a picture of me and my sister together so we wouldn’t forget about those moments.” – Alexa
Zulaika Quntiero’s story allows her to be an example for her students. The school environment created by the faculty and the programs available to the community also helps the students see the multiple opportunities available to them. They are able to create their own path, if their own principal did it, why can’t they?