Claudia Monsalvo-Montanez Recognized as a Santa Clara County Teacher of the Year
During her 30-year career, Walter L. Bachrodt Elementary teacher Claudia Monsalvo-Montanez has taught countless students in classrooms spanning three continents, a journey that has brought her to dazzling cities such as Bogotá, Barranquilla, Madrid and, of course, San José. But she still vividly remembers the very beginning of her education journey, which took place in her hometown in Colombia.
“My aunt ran a nursery school in my hometown of Barranquilla,” said Monsalvo-Montanez. “It was in the back of my grandmother’s house on this big outdoor patio. The classes were full with eager kids. And every summer when I was on vacation, I would go there and try to support the English teacher. It was just a thrill for me to do that and help out. There I started realizing I wanted to become a teacher. Later in high school, I was inspired by the passion my Philosophy and Chemistry teachers brought to their classes and their teaching.”
The excitement that marked those early years is still clearly evident in Monsalvo-Montanez’s approach to her work as a first grade Two-Way Bilingual Immersion teacher at Bachrodt Elementary.
“It’s still amazing to see that spark in my students—to witness that everyday joy when they learn something new and then they start including it in their responses or conversations,” said Monsalvo-Montanez. “The very first week of school, we had our first read aloud session and I could see students starting to learn new words in Spanish. After that reading session, I noticed that several of our students were using those words in their writing exercises. I could see how it stayed with them, and that’s a wonderful feeling.”
Monsalvo-Montanez’s infectious and impassioned teaching style has not gone unnoticed. Monsalvo-Montanez was named the San José Unified School District Teacher of the Year in the 2022-2023 school year, and she will be recognized alongside 29 other teachers across the county as part of the 53rd Annual Santa Clara County Teacher Recognition Celebration on October 23.
“It is an honor to be recognized as one of the best teachers in Santa Clara County. I was in tears when I learned about it, as I started recalling all the great schools where I have worked at, and all the amazing students I have taught in 30 years.”
Monsalvo-Montanez has been at Walter L. Bachrodt Elementary for seven years—her second stint with San José Unified. From 2001 – 2003, she worked as a teacher at Anne Darling Elementary. Following that experience, she moved to Madrid, Spain for 13 years, where Monsalvo-Montanez continued to teach. After discussing the future with her wife, the two decided to move back to San José, where they felt they could be more challenged and supported as teachers, in order to continue developing their expertise.
“We really looked at the pros and cons of staying in Madrid versus moving back to San José and it became pretty clear to us that we needed to make a change,” said Monsalvo-Montanez, who has also taught in Bogotá, Colombia. “This is our home now. This is where we feel like a part of the community.”
Monsalvo-Montanez credited the ongoing support from the San José Unified community as a crucial part to her success.
“The coaches we’ve had at the District have made a huge impact on my teaching,” said Monsalvo-Montanez. “They are always bringing new insight into teaching, encouraging me to see things from a new perspective. They inspire me—with their help, I know that there is always room for growth.”