SAN ANTONIO — A love for kids brought Elizabeth Padron into the classroom. Fifteen years later, she had nothing but smiles as she accepted the KENS 5 Excel Award and a $1,000 check from Credit Human.
"They're going to be successful; they're going to go to college, and they're going to have a bright future. They all know that," Padron said as she smiled at her first-grade students.
Dare to dream is just one of the many life lessons taught in her Columbia Heights classroom.
Emiliano Guardiola, one of Padron's students, said he enjoys the fun environment she's made as their bi-lingual immersion class studies in English and Spanish.
"That's the best part."
Dr. Hilda Rodriguez, a Multi-classroom Leader at the elementary school, said Padron spreads sunshine everywhere she goes.
"She will give her entire heart for these kiddos to be okay, and it's just a very safe environment, very calm. The kids feel the love when they come in here," Rodriguez added.
Always a pillar of patience, the educator shares her positivity to help her classroom navigate problems in and out of the classroom: "I try to see the positive and see what they're going through. For me, my success is based on doing partnerships with families."
Coming to the U.S. from Mexico, the single mother of two never let fear stop her from chasing her dreams.
"She's never been scared. There's not one obstacle that you can put in front of her that she won't, you know, overcome. And she's come through a lot of challenges, and she always does it with a smile," Rodriguez explained.
Padron said she wanted to build bridges to make learning a family focus after experiencing what it was like to be a single mother who wanted to help her kids excel with their education.
"So that's what I'm trying to tell my families. We need to be partners for their education. You can get started now. We need to make their learning our focus," Padron said.
Proving there's no limit on what you can achieve when you do the work, her students said they're "proud" of the teacher the look up to as a guide for their education and a leader in their community.
"She just exemplifies what a good teacher is and how she teaches from the heart. You see her, and you just start to smile and you just feel like everything's going to be okay," Rodriguez said.
Sharing her spotlight with all of the educators in her district, Padron said she plans to put her award money back into the classroom for her students.