Lorain High School EL Teacher Sandra Peloquin (center) is joined by EL Supervisor Susanna Silva, board member Courtney Nazario, board member Barbie Washington, and CEO/Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham at the “Be a Hero in the Eyes of a Child” Luncheon held on April 26, 2022, at Lorain County Community College.
APRIL 18, 2022 | All around Sandra Peloquin’s classroom at Lorain High School are hints about what she is passionate about — signs that describe furnishings in different languages, world maps, and translations of commonly used phrases.
The veteran teacher with nearly 30 years under her belt has dedicated her career to helping students learning English as a second language feel welcome in Lorain City Schools and, most importantly, actively participate in their education. For this work, Peloquin is one of 20 unsung heroes to be honored at the “Be a Hero in the Eyes of a Child” Luncheon on Tuesday, April 26, at the Lorain County Community College Spitzer Conference Center. Blessing House, Lorain County’s only children’s crisis care nursey, will host the luncheon to honor community heroes and raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month, recognized in April nationwide.
Peloquin is a TESL-certified teacher, which allows her to do more than translate, a common misconception about her role. Instead, she works with various language disciples to help all students new to the country or learning English as their second language for the first time.
So how does a bilingual teacher – as phenomenal as she is – teach students from India, Mexico, and all points in between to understand the English language enough to learn alongside their peers? Peloquin said she loves finding new ways to teach lessons as an EL teacher.
“You know, you just get their attention,” she said. “For example, we are getting ready to do Romeo and Juliet. We are really scaffolding it or breaking it up, getting the vocabulary before, and really front-loading it so they understand it better.
“I’ll take words out and simplify it. Basically, by this point in the year, I’m really just speaking English with my students.”
Peloquin said she does not work directly with the Blessing House when asked how she popped up on their radar. But she didn’t have to. Lorain City Schools Board Member Barbie Washington nominated Peloquin after being a fan of her work inside and outside the classroom, to which Peloquin said she was “proud and honored.”
“Sandra Peloquin dedicates her heart and her time to serving the students and families of Lorain City Schools,” Washington wrote in her nomination letter. “Sandra’s specialty is working with students who are learning English as a second language and newcomers to America. She has unique ways of making the students feel welcomed, honoring their cultures while helping them to understand and even embrace a new one.”
Peloquin also teaches at Lorain County Community College and participates in several local and national organizations, including UnidosUS, the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. Through UnidosUS, Peloquin spoke up for students on Capitol Hill, highlighting the multiple ways current US immigration policies emotionally and academically harm students.
Peloquin said her passion for her work comes from a personal place. Her mother, now-82, went to Lorain City Schools. She is an American-born Mexican who started school not knowing how to speak English and told Peloquin stories of being harshly reprimanded – smacked with a ruler on her knuckles – when she did not speak English. Now, Peloquin is the teacher who wants students to understand they are welcome and their culture will be respected in her classroom.
“It’s not just teaching,” she said. “It’s understanding culture. It’s patience. I know my students will get there… I’m the kind of teacher that whatever is not fair for my kids, I will fight for it to be fair. I blame my mother. She always told me I could change the world if I wanted to.”