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Spanish With Miss Lupe

In today’s ever diversifying world, knowing another language can be a huge asset. Lupe Beatriz Urquizo has been teaching Spanish to children at the Hicksville Public Library for the past 14 years. The library offers these free lessons to youngsters ages five to 14 most Saturdays throughout the year.

“I believe all of us remember our good teachers and our bad teachers," said Urquizo. “There have been teachers in my life that have touched my soul. They were an inspiration to me and I want to give that same motivation to the children I teach."  

Urquizo was born in Lima, Peru, the fifth of eight children. After high school, she moved to the United States. She didn’t know any English, but enjoyed living with her cousins in Great Neck so decided to stay in the Long Island. She started doing odd jobs, such as babysitting, cleaning houses, and taking care of elderly people, taking any opportunity that presented itself to her.

Urquizo found good fortune with an abstract artist named Stephanie Brody Lederman. “I worked for her in her home and she began to develop affection for me,” explained Urquizo. “She saw that I myself had an artistic eye and she convinced me to go to the Germain School of Photography. My horizons really expanded after I graduated and I began working as a professional photographer for weddings, birthdays, baptisms and other special events.”

Even though she had a comfortable career, Urquizo still didn’t feel whole.

“There was something missing in my soul,” she explained. “I always wanted to have a college degree. I decided to go back to school after I finally became comfortable with the English language.”

Urquizo attended Queensboro Community College where she received her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts. Afterwards she transferred to SUNY Old Westbury to work towards a degree in education.

“In college I was lucky enough to have wonderful professors who really moved me,” said Urquizo. “For example one of my professors named Kate Velsor was very good to me. When I had difficulty with the English language, Professor Velsor was very understanding and patient with me. She really encompasses the type of teacher that I would like to be. I want to touch lives. I don’t like to teach the rude way. I want to be a friendly teacher. I don’t want to be the teacher that people feel afraid of because if you teach in a simple way it is easier for the kids to learn. Lots of teachers are strict and mean and in my opinion that doesn’t help children learn.”

In May of 2000 Urquizo finally received her Bachelor’s Degree in Bilingual Education and Special Education from SUNY Old Westbury, a degree which has special meaning to Urquizo.

“My goddaughter is special needs and her condition made me realize that all children deserve an education,” she said.

In August of 2000 Urquizo became a Spanish teacher at the Hicksville Public Library. She said “the children I teach are incredible. They all come from such a diverse background. Their enthusiasm to learn reminds me every day that I am doing the right thing."

She encourages residents to sign their kids up for the free Spanish program.

“The Spanish language has become very necessary to speak and understand these days,” she said. “If children become fluent in Spanish then there is a wealth of opportunities that are open to them.”

Urquizo holds her next Spanish class for beginners and advanced learners Saturday, March 15. To find out more visit www.hicksvillelibrary.org