Meet Teacher of the Year finalist Monica Cepeda - News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Meet Teacher of the Year finalist Monica Cepeda

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Monica Cepeda is a 5th grade teacher at Ordot-Chalan Pago Elementary School. "I have been teaching for about 16 years and I'm a 2017 Department of Education finalist for Teacher of the Year," she said proudly, but humbly.

When she was a young girl Cepeda lived at the time near the Alee Shelter. It was during this time she was motivated to become a teacher. "Every time my mom would volunteer her services to the Alee Shelter, she would bring me along. I used to always play with the kids and of course, with me being a little bit older, I wanted to be the teacher and so we were playing school," she recalled.

But it wasn't until a significant event in her life that pushed her even more, as she said, "I became a teen mom...that solidified my determination to teach and educate and to give back to the community.  I wanted to prove to the world that even though I had a challenge in my life, I was able to overcome it."

And why elementary? "Elementary is the stepping stone for the rest of their life," said Cepeda.  "This is their foundation and so if I could get them to value education and prepare them for what's ahead in their life, this is where I wanted to be."

At the press conference when they announced her name as a finalist Cepeda said she was very humbled and honored. "I'm just so glad that I've come this far. I didn't expect to come this far so I'm very honored and proud. I think back to my students when I always tell my kids if I shine, you shine and if they shine, I shine!" she said.

For Cepeda, teaching is "a way for me to get the students to think ahead of what their life is- dare to dream and work to achieve it. Let's dream it, let's show you how to do it...let's work. A lot of it is not me teaching, it's me facilitating. I'm not up here giving a lecture, I'm giving them the tool and the resources to show me what they can do, motivate them to learn and to bring out the best in them."

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