While English proficiency is a clear goal, Ms. Duran-Contreras speaks Spanish often in class to explain important concepts or clarify differences between Spanish and English. Believing that students should continue to develop skills in their first language, she provides Spanish-language books for students to read independently, and opportunities for them to write in Spanish.
Ms. Duran-Contreras communicates with students in a clear and straightforward manner. In her opinion, explicit feedback and instructions help students understand what they're doing well, and what goals they should set to improve. "I give them some ideas for their next steps. I try to be specific with them. Instead of saying, you need to be way over here. I give them little steps -- the whole notion of scaffolding."
Starting at the beginning of the year, Ms. Duran Contreras carefully establishes a classroom atmosphere of appreciation and respect, stressing that everyone in the community is important. Often referring to students as brother and sister learners, she emphasizes the value of students' contribution to their own and their classmates' learning, and communicates high expectations for student participation and behavior.