Juliana Urtubey, NBCT, a first-generation, bilingual immigrant, loved school. Drawn to teaching through a high school teacher leadership academy, she knew it would be important to be a bilingual teacher. Now the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, Juliana works to serve as a mirror for her school community, helping students to be proud of their identities and their families, and to acknowledge their strengths and contributions to the community.
Juliana, currently in her 11th year in the classroom, teaches at Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School in Las Vegas, where she serves as a co-teacher in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade special education settings and as an instructional strategist developing supports to meet students’ differing academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.
Known as “Ms. Earth” for her efforts to beautify the school and unify the community through murals and gardens, Juliana helped raise more than $80,000 to start a thriving garden program at Crestwood Elementary, her previous school. It provided opportunities for social-emotional learning and student-directed learning. Tended to by the student “Garden Gnomies” club, the garden offered new opportunities for intergenerational learning and connections to the wider community, who could purchase produce on an as-able donation basis or with volunteer hours.
As National Teacher of the Year, Juliana plans to advocate for a “joyful and just education” for all students, one that is inclusive and celebratory of all students’ identities, families and communities. Urtubey is the first Latinx National Teacher of the Year since at least 2005.
Juliana is a National Board Certified Teacher and holds a bachelor’s degree in bilingual elementary education and a master’s degree in special bilingual education from the University of Arizona. She is a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Board of Directors member and Teacher Fellow, a Nevada Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow, and an Understood Teacher Fellow and mentor. She is also a winner of the 2018 Rogers Foundation Heart of Education award.