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4J Employee Receives Top Latinx Educator Award

Vanessa Vasquez named 2021 Distinguished Latina Educator

One of Eugene School District 4J’s outstanding employees has been named one of Oregon’s top Latinx educators.

The Oregon Association of Latino Administrators (OALA) has recognized Vanessa Vasquez, the district’s translation and interpretation services coordinator, with its Distinguished Latina Educator Award. She is the first classified employee to receive the award in its 15-year history.

OALA board president, Sarita Amaya, expressed appreciation of Ms. Vasquez’s passion and dedication to 4J’s students and families, saying, “Thank you for your commitment to empowering and uplifting students, identifying ways to increase access to high-quality instruction and services. Thank you for your commitment to empowering and uplifting families by tapping into cultural and linguistic resources and identifying ways to weave community funds of knowledge into the fabric of the educational system in Eugene School District 4J.”

4J interpretation and translation coordinator Vanessa Vasquez holds her award

Ms. Vasquez, who has worked for 4J for 18 years, manages the network of more than a dozen interpreters and translators who help 4J students and families remain connected to their learning and to the news and events in their school community. She also serves as a school district liaison with the Latinx community. Since the coronavirus pandemic closed school buildings nearly a year ago, Ms. Vasquez also has taken a leadership role in the district’s wraparound program that provides food, other essential items and resources to roughly 120 4J families weekly.

“I’m passionate about helping families, and I enjoy doing my job,” said Ms. Vasquez, noting the work wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of her co-workers. “It’s an honor to receive this recognition.”

Misael Flores Gutierrez, 4J’s equity administrator, praised Vasquez for her tireless work connecting students and families with essential items and services to meet their needs during this challenging time. “I can’t think of a better person to receive this award. This year has been increasingly difficult for families, but especially for our Latinx community. Vanessa has gone above and beyond to ensure that our district wraparound program serves our 4J families’ needs.”

Pointing out that Ms. Vasquez is the first classified employee to win the award, Ms. Amaya explained, “We felt it was so important to honor our classified staff as they have been instrumental in keeping our culturally and linguistically diverse families closely connected as we navigate virtual learning and now a gradual transition to the re-opening of schools.” Ms. Amaya added, “Administrators and teachers couldn’t do the educational equity work required for opportunity and access to a high quality, culturally responsive education without exceptional individuals like Vanessa.” 

OALA presents the award each year to a Latinx educator who has exhibited leadership in education and has implemented strategies and activities aligned with its mission, purpose and goals in the awardee’s district. Ms. Vasquez was recognized on February 5 during the association’s annual conference, which was held virtually this year.

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