Hispanic Heritage Month: How one Russellville teacher is now using her story to help students succeed

Elma Martinez was one of Rogerville's first English Language Learners in the 1990's. - clipped version

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Giving back, that’s what Alma Martinez has been doing for nearly two decades.

Martinez was one of Russellville’s first English Language Learners, or ELL students in the 1990s.

Teaching — that’s what Martinez loves to do. Her journey to teaching wasn’t always an easy one though.

Martinez came to America from Mexico at just age 11.

“Back then there wasn’t as many Hispanics as there are now,” said Martinez.

With Spanish being her first language, adjusting to the newness of the English language was a challenge.

“It was hard. It was difficult of course because I was so limited with my English I couldn’t really understand many of my core class teachers so I failed several grades basically,” said Martinez.

Nevertheless, she persevered.

She says it was because of one teacher who believed in he.

“My ELL teacher, Josie Dougan. She was from Cuba and she was back in Jr High school and she was cheering me on and helping me to learn the language,” said Martinez.

And now she wants to be that teacher for her students

“I want to help others too because I know that the language barrier was difficult, so I wanted to make that difference too,” said Martinez.

So now in her Spanish classes, she gets to help students learn apart of her culture.

“I decided to go for Spanish because if I was able to learn another foreign language I knew that other people could learn another foreign language,” said Martinez.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year from September 15th to October 15th.

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