Spanish teacher Judy Ortiz has always had a facility for languages. She has studied French and German, and taught English as a second language, but her first language was Spanish. That is one way of telling her story. Another is to say that Ms. Ortiz’s first language is love, of learning and of children, and that this language permeates her actions inside and outside the classroom. “What I love most of all is to see the expression on children’s faces when they learn something they never knew. I love being part of that process, empowering children,” she says, adding, “I parented my own children that way, telling them, ‘you can do this, you can figure this out.'”
Ms. Ortiz grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Her considerable academic achievements in high school earned her a fully funded college education at Brandeis University in Boston, from where she received a BA in Sociology. After college she joined the Army, serving in administrative positions as varied as her postings. Subsequently marrying and living abroad, she continued expanding her professional roles while parenting three children. Back in the US, she earned an MA in Public Administration from Webster University and became an educational administrator in North Carolina’s Brunswick County Schools.
Following a move to Virginia, she spent 14 years teaching Spanish in Prince William Public Schools to Middle School and High School students. While there, she relished working with the Smithsonian’s Mobile Learning Lab, bringing digital, video, and computing activities into the curriculum. After a brief retirement in Florida, Ms. Ortiz returned to Northern Virginia, where her family now includes two grandchildren. She also returned to her love of classroom teaching. “The word ‘happy’ is what drew me to this school,” she says, acknowledging a kind of homecoming.