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Award-Winning Teacher Empowers Students in Two Languages

Studies Weekly teacher Marco Graniel

Marco Graniel, Studies Weekly Teacher. Photo used with permission.

Marco Graniel has made a significant impact in the lives of Houston Independent School District students.

Graniel, a Teacher of the Year finalist in 2017, is a dual-language teacher of social studies and Spanish at Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School. As a dual-language teacher, his social studies instruction is in Spanish, not English. 

The 2022-2023 school year marked his 10th year as a teacher, but he hasn’t always been in education. Early in his career he worked in sales. He pondered the possibility of teaching for quite a while before changing career paths, because he was reluctant to go the alternative licensure route.

“But I wanted to be a teacher, so I did it because I like working with kids,” he said in a recent interview with Studies Weekly.

He started teaching at the elementary level, and taught 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. After seven years he moved to middle school.

“The previous principal at the elementary school where I taught invited me to work at the middle school. At first, I was reluctant, because I’d been there so long, but he convinced me there was a need, and he let me run the dual language program here at Meyerland,” he said.

The move was an adjustment.

“It was rough that first year. You have to change how you approach the kids and the lessons,” he said. “Now, in my third year, I’m better at knowing what to call them out on, and how to get them participating in the lesson.”

Some of his recent challenges have been navigating middle school expectations amid a pandemic.

“We’re walking a line of holding students accountable, but giving them space,” he said. “You give students a deadline, and some of them get it done, some don’t. Some have valid excuses, and some don’t. So you want to hold them to it, and still give them grace because of COVID.”

The past two years have been taxing.

“Teaching is a great profession, but it’s emotionally taxing, and hard to balance your personal and professional life. Some are more natural at it, but for others, we have to think about it,” he says. 

Graniel joked about one of his other challenges. “I’m not organized as a person.” 

That’s one of the reasons he likes Studies Weekly – because everything is ready and organized. 

“I can give it to my students and it’s on them. I don’t have to keep track of a bunch of different readings. I like to use the front page as the intro and then Studies Weekly has connected things across the rest of the week. I can assign different parts of one week’s paper, and then expand on it,” he said.

Award winning teacher Marco Graniel uses Studies Weekly

Students use Studies Weekly in Marco Graniel’s classroom. Photo used with permission.

He’s been using the Studies Weekly curriculum for six years. It works well in his classroom because it has accurate and reliable content for Texas in both English and Spanish. He regularly uses the videos at Studies Weekly Online, the digital learning platform.

“They are great,” he said.

Since 2020, he’s also been in school himself, pursuing a law degree, and is set to graduate in 2023. If he stays in education, he hopes to use his degree to teach students more ways to “grow their brains and be better critical thinkers.” 

“In elementary, getting to know the kids – you see them grow so much,” he said. “At middle school, I enjoy helping them develop their writing, and getting them to talk more in Spanish. It’s great to watch them build their academic Spanish vocabulary because that helps them build their professional Spanish skills.” 

The kids are the reason he’s stayed in the field, even during the difficult past few years. 

“They’ve been the mainstay – seeing their expression when they learn something new, knowing I have an impact on their future, helping them be more kind. That’s why I got into it,” he said.

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