JOHN DAY - Spanish teacher Jorge Pulleiro was almost speechless when he received a call from Washington, D.C. on Sept 12.
The secretary of the ambassador for Argentina, D. Hector Marcos Timerman, was phoning to congratulate Pulleiro, who teaches at Grant Union High School, on news that he has been selected to receive the Loretta Wollett Award for Outstanding Teacher at the K-12 Level by the Confederation in Oregon for Language Teaching (COFLT).
The call also offered more congratulations, and assistance, for a pilot exchange program Pulleiro has started.
Grant Union Principal Mark Witty nominated Pulleiro for the teaching award. Witty noted that when Pulleiro started teaching in 2006 there were 60 Spanish students - that number has almost doubled to 110 this year. The Spanish teacher has also added Spanish III and IV at GUHS and, Witty says, students furthering their education are able to test out of their first year of college Spanish - many of them with only two years of Pulleiro's Spanish class.
A qualification for receiving the award is being published. Pulleiro translated a Neighborhood Watch pamphlet published by the National Sheriffs' Association into Spanish while he was a student at Brigham Young University.
The Spanish teacher has also brought much of the Hispanic culture to the community, providing Latin dancers, singers, dinners for Spanish club fund-raisers, and has given his students opportunities to travel abroad to Argentina and Spain.
Pulleiro, who received his master's degree from Eastern Oregon University Aug. 8, plans to accept the COFLT award Oct. 10 and 11 during the organization's fall conference in Vancouver, Wash.
"I will receive (the award) because of the students that I have here," Pulleiro said. "They make me a better teacher every day. The reason that I teach is the students - the caliber of people that they are."
Family also gets the credit for his accomplishments.
"Everything I am now, I owe to my widow mother who sacrificed so much to provide me with the education and success I have in life," he said. "I am also extremely grateful for my wife and children who are a constant support and encouragement. I dedicate this award to them."
Pulleiro described his Spanish students as eager to learn the language as well as the culture.
Some of those eager learners will participate in an exchange program Pulleiro started this year. The plan is for seven GUHS students to trade spots with seven Argentinian students who hail from the same high school Pulleiro attended in Buenos Aires. The students from Grant Union will stay with the Argentinian students' families and vice versa.
The pilot program is scheduled to take place January through February 2009.
Pulleiro noted that Ambassador Timerman's secretary said "he's excited about the exchange program and looks forward to helping in any way."