Teacher of the Week

Growing up in Mexico, Thalia Rodriguez Flores never had the newest toys, but economic limitations never had an effect on the amount of fun she could have.

“I remember that I spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying nature,” she said. “My parents spent quality time with me, and I was happy making mud cakes. Growing up with very little promoted my imagination.”

When she became a mother, Rodriguez Flores said, fostering her children’s development became a “full-blown passion.”

That passion became a career when she began teaching toddlers at Montessori School of Champaign Urbana, where she creates environments for kids to learn and grow as the school’s head toddler directress.

I find my work important because … this job allowed me to observe my son and other children in the first years of their life through new lens. I want to continue to make their introduction to this world a very welcoming and rewarding experience.

I became a teacher because … I want to be an adult who models care for the environment and respect for others. I want to keep growing with each child as they learn about their emotions, about themselves and the world around them. Children need to know that adults care about them and that they can also care for others.

My favorite/most unique lesson that I teach is … I love our practical life area. It is fascinating observing 2-year-old children doing practical life activities, such as washing dishes, watering plants, cooking, etc.

My most fulfilling moment on the job was/is when … There is a famous term we use in Montessori: “Normalization.” It is a beautiful sight to observe when the children demonstrate a love of work, concentration, self-discipline and sociability. The role of the adult fades, and I become more of an observer. I love observing them!

Something else I’m passionate about is … materials, I love making materials.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was … I studied theater when I was younger, so I still remember my theater teachers. They helped me understand that everyone was different and had a unique talent. The theater was a place where I never felt judged and always had a voice.

I engage students during this strange time by … In this chaotic year, the world that we knew has changed for families, schools and, of course, most importantly, for children. I often think about my own role as an educator and the many ways I could improve as a person.

The pandemic came and changed my perspective on life. The children at school gave me the hugs and energy I needed to face the uncertainties head-on.

The children need us to help them integrate into the world, to help them socialize again and find their sense of belonging.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be … a hummingbird.

Article written by:

Anthony Zilis