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Hartford's Teacher Of Year Says She Was Born To It

June 17, 2005
By ASHLEY L. BATTLE, Courant Staff Writer

At Hartford's Moylan Elementary School, Silvia Malave bustles from one cluster of desks in room 245 to another. At each, she offers advice or praise to her students in Spanish, smiling the entire time.

Perhaps that is why she was chosen as Hartford's 2005-2006 Teacher of the Year, which she calls a "major reward."

"I can honestly say, from the bottom of my heart, that I was born a teacher. I could repeat everything my teacher told me. My first students were my dolls. Next were my mother's plants," said Malave, laughing.

Malave works with fourth- and fifth-graders in the dual language program, where students from the third through sixth grades are taught completely in English and Spanish during alternating weeks. This week, students are being taught in Spanish. Next week, it will be English.

For some students, English is their stronger language; for others, it is Spanish. Malave explains the difference between a bilingual program and the dual language program: "Bilingual programs are 90 percent Spanish and 10 percent English. Here, it is 50-50."

Malave, 52, also works with students who are in the Success for All program, which includes fourth- through sixth-graders.

Malave is well liked by her students. While standing in the hallway, a young girl walks up to her and hugs her. Lorenzo Guzman, 12, and Julio Figueroa, 10, both fifth-graders, have had Malave since the third grade and agree that she is a "very nice" teacher.

"She represents the highest ideals of teaching," said Irene Coe, principal of Moylan. "Silvia consistently demonstrates that high expectations bring high performance."

Smiling, Malave recounts the hectic schedule that she went through in order to become Teacher of the Year. After being selected as Moylan's Teacher of the Year, Malave was interviewed by the school board. About a week later, Malave received word that she was one of the four teachers nominated for the award.

The other finalists were Maria M. Hernandez of Hartford Magnet Middle School, Olive White of Annie Fisher School and April Winterson of Dwight School. All four nominees were honored by the Probus Club of Hartford last week.

"I was very surprised," Malave said.

The second phase of the month-long process was much more complicated. In addition to writing essays, Malave was videotaped for an hour with her students, and she prepared a lesson plan to give to the board before filming. She also gave them a post-lesson plan, so the board could see how she felt the students reacted to the day's lesson.

"I'm not a camera person," said Malave, "so when they came, I was very nervous."

Malave describes learning and understanding a second language as a "resource."

"I speak to them [in Spanish] slowly so I can make sure that they understand me," she said. She also said that she tries not to lapse into English with her students too often when it's a week for Spanish instruction and instead uses body language to get her point across.

Malave, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, earned her bachelor's degree in English in 1972 and her master's degree in 1984, both from the University of Puerto Rico. She began teaching in 1973.

In 1993, Malave relocated to Hartford and began teaching at McDonough Elementary. Soon after she began working there, she was transferred to Moylan, which was undergoing renovations at the time. She points to the second wing of the school, where her first classroom at Moylan is located, saying, "There were only four rooms being used then." Four classrooms later, Malave is still teaching at Moylan and helping her students, one at a time.

She lives in Hartford with her husband of 32 years, Richard Figueroa, and is the proud mother of four daughters, Sylvia, Keila, Liana and Amie.

With regard to teaching, Malave says, "It's more than a career. It's a mission."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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