This teacher in Mexico, who has the heart of a poet, could win $1 million

Elisa Guerra Cruz with her students (Courtesy of Colegio Valle de Filadelfia)

Elisa Guerra Cruz never planned to become a teacher. After winning a statewide poetry competition, she dreamed about being a writer.

But life got in the way of that dream. When Guerra’s daughter was born, she couldn’t find a preschool she liked in her home city of Aguascalientes in northern Mexico. “Why don’t we start our own kindergarten?” she asked a friend. In short order, the two rented a space and enrolled 17 children, including their own. Guerra studied at home to get a teacher’s degree and later enrolled in a graduate program.

After five years, Guerra and her business partner parted ways, but in 2004, Guerra started her own kindergarten with only three children, two of whom were her own daughter and son. Despite the humble beginning, by the end of the school year, she had enrolled 50 students and opened elementary classes.

Hey, studying can be fun! (Courtesy of Colegio Valle de Filadelfia)

As Guerra looked over the teaching materials available, she found them uninteresting. She complained about them, saying, “I want my children to fall in love with what is wonderful and beautiful in the world.” True to her history, Guerra created her own curriculum focused on diverse cultures and countries. Her school, called the Colegio Valle de Filadelfia,  encourages appreciation of art, music and literature from different parts of the world. Recently Pearson Education published 12 of her textbooks for preschoolers.

Guerra’s work has inspired parents and teachers to open schools based on the Colegio’s model in four more Mexican cities. Another will open soon in Costa Rica.

Becoming a teacher “can be one of the most gratifying decisions,” Guerra said. “You get to change so many lives in a good way that your own life changes for the better.”

Guerra is one of 50 finalists in the 2015 edition of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for an outstanding teacher. Often referred to as the Nobel Prize for teaching, it is open to teachers in every school in every country of the world. ShareAmerica will let you know if Guerra reaches the top 10, to be announced in mid-February 2015.