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March 6, 2018

Faces of Fauquier: She works with immigrant teens

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“When I see them graduating, that’s the best reward,” says Leys Rodriguez, an English as a Second Language teacher at Fauquier High School.
I always tell (my students), don’t lose what you brought with you — your values. They are very respectful and bring gratitude. They come here, and they are ambassadors of their country.
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Staff Journalist
She has devoted her teaching career to helping immigrant students learn English and improve academic performance.

An English as a Second Language teacher at Fauquier High School, Leys Rodriguez works with students to “learn the communicative language and academic language . . . get them to feel familiar with our school system, help them to cope with the cultural shock and overcome those fears.”

Most of her 22 students come from Central America and Mexico, but Ms. Rodriguez also teaches teenagers from South Korea, Ukraine and the Philippines.

“There are some that speak a little bit (of English), but most of them come here to learn the language and the academics,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

“Basically they come, for most of them from Central America from little towns and they go to school if they want. When they come to the U.S., it’s a requirement,” she said. “Some of my kids have been at fifth grade in their countries and here they are placed by age, so we have to try to fill that gap.”

Through the ESL program, Ms. Rodriguez helps ninth- through 12th-graders students learn the “structure, grammar and conversational English that they need to survive.”

She also connects academics with life skills, helps students prepare for SOLs and communicates with parents by hosting potluck dinners.

An immigrant herself, Ms. Rodriguez can relate to her students. Born in Bogota, Colombia, she experienced poverty. Her father sold ice cream cones in a park and her mother cleaned houses.

After learning English at age 19 and earning her bachelor’s degree, she came to America through an international teaching program.

Dedicated to her students, Ms. Rodriguez tutors students as early as 6:45 a.m. at school.

“I always tell (my students), don’t lose what you brought with you — your values. They are very respectful and bring gratitude,” she said. “They come here, and they are ambassadors of their country.”

Her students represent the greatest rewards of her job.

“They are loving and caring people, and they are really motivated to come every day,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “They really make me feel proud when teachers and the principal come in here and tell me how well-behaved and respectful they are. When I see them graduating, that’s the best reward.

“My goal is to help them reach their goals. I always tell them, ‘I don’t give up. I believe in you and that you can do it’.”

Her school recently nominated Ms. Rodriguez for Fauquier’s teacher of the year award.

Federal law requires public schools to provide free and equal education to meet the needs of all students, including those with limited proficiency in English.

• Age

• Home

• Work
English as a second language teacher, Fauquier High School, 2006 to present and Liberty and FHS, 2005; Prince William County Public Schools, 2002-05; Anglo American School, Bogota, Colombia, 1999-2002; Robinsdale Spanish Language Immersion School, 1997-98; Colombo Florida Bilingue, 1995-97; bilingual kindergarten in Bogota, 1991-94.

• Why do you do the job?
I can understand these kids. I can relate to them. They have gone through a lot. I didn’t come here the way they did, but I went through the same things — poverty, coming from a poor family. I know what it feels to go to bed without food. It’s easy for me to feel what they feel, to cry with them, celebrate with them and cheer them up. It’s difficult for them when they come here . . . . Because they are kids, they are forced to come here. I came here because I wanted to come here.

• Family
Daughter, Amy, 10; fiancé Jeff Foley.

• Education
Master’s degree, education, University of Mary Washington, 2011; endorsement in ESL, George Mason University, 2005; bachelor’s degree, philology and languages English and Spanish, Incca University, Bogota, Colombia, 1994; high school in Bogota, 1989.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
8 years.

• Why do you live here?
Fauquier County is a beautiful and peaceful place to live. I am an outdoor person and Fauquier offers me safety and lots of place to explore with my bike. I love living close to my job. It gives me the opportunity to get to school early and work with my students before school starts.

• How do you describe this county?
I love it. It has nature. I love sunrises and sunsets. Fauquier has a great countryside. It is very quiet and safe. It offers gorgeous scenes and lovely sunrises and sunsets. There are great neighbors and very clean and well-maintained roads and properties.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I would add more biking trails and help my students dream come true — a movie theater in town.

• What do you do for fun?
Ride my road bike. Go to the mountains, and camping with my fiancé, his children and my daughter.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
The places only my bike can take me.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
A county where my daughter will feel safe and happy.

• Favorite TV show?
I don’t watch TV.

• Favorite Movie?
“The Pursuit of Happyness.”

• Favorite book?
“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Any place where I can be surrounded by nature.

• Favorite food?

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
“If you believe in it, fight for it.” My philosophy teacher from 10th grade.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My ESL students. Each on of them has a story to tell and each one has given up everything to come to this country to look for new opportunities an they are achieving their goals.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would invest it to help my daughter and my students to continue their higher education.
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Stacie Griffin · March 6, 2018 at 1:56 pm
Thank you Fauquier Now for showcasing this wonderful person. Thank you Ms. Rodriguez for your dedication and commitment, and for choosing Fauquier County public schools as your home. You are changing lives and inspiring your students in ways they don't even realize yet. What a gift.
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