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Local educator to receive national human and civil rights award

Speech pathologist’s groundbreaking work with bilingual and speech impaired students to be honored


WASHINGTON - June 22, 2009 -

Alyssa Liana Tomẽ-Estornell will receive the National Education Association’s George I. Sanchez Memorial Award at the Association’s annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in San Diego, Calif., on July 3, 2009.

Estornell, a speech-language pathologist with Florida’s Palm Beach County School District, is being honored for her groundbreaking work in educating young children who are bilingual and speech or language impaired.

The Sanchez Memorial Award is presented to an individual whose activities have made significant improvements in educational opportunities and advanced the achievement of equal opportunity for Hispanics.

Working with “ChildFind,” a school district program aimed at identifying prekindergarteners with possible speech and language disabilities, has allowed Estornell to hone her craft and gain recognition as a pioneer in educating some the most academically vulnerable students. 

Estornell, along with Jose Rafael Lozano-Rodriguez, wrote The Palm Beach Spanish Communicator Screener, a groundbreaking instrument that has helped to reduce the over-identification of Hispanic students in evaluations through the establishment of standardized pass/fail scores. All monolingual speech-language pathologists in the district have been trained by Estornell to administer the screening tool.

Recognizing that such students needed special support, Estornell took part in developing the district’s first Spanish immersion intervention program for prekindergarten students. The program affords children the opportunity to develop native language proficiency while overcoming communication barriers to prepare them for dual-language kindergarten and ultimate long-term academic success. 

Estornell has also extended the program’s outreach to parents and families, initiating an annual “Parent Night” where families bring a typical meal from their native county while learning strategies for bringing speech immersion concepts into the home.

“Alyssa Liana Tome’-Estornell’s tireless advocacy and innovative work has helped her fellow educators tear down some real barriers to academic success,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “She has created a tremendous tool to help close achievement gaps for these at-risk youngsters.”

George I. Sanchez (1906–1972) was an educator, historian and author in the United States, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.  He devoted 50 years of his life to the education of Mexican, Navajo and Black children and is known as the “father” of the movement for quality education for Mexican Americans.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT:  Stacey Grissom  (202) 822-7823, sgrissom@nea.org