It's the American way. Every child in America has the right to receive a free, quality education. But that's no easy task for those who don't know what their teachers are saying. Now, one man in Dearing has become their interpreter.
"I love it. I go home every night and look at myself in the mirror, and I can say I did something right today," said Miguel Faure, a new parapro who also serves as a translator to the Spanish-speaking community in McDuffie County. "I have the opportunity to help a child and their parents. To be able to pass on the information that the teacher is trying to give the parents. I have the best job in the county."
Mr. Faure spends every Monday and Wednesday at Dearing Elementary School, which has the most Spanish-speaking population due to the immigrants working at nearby McCorkle Nursery. He said he goes to the other schools on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although he has no children of his own, Mr. Faure said he tells everyone that he has "19 adopted grandchildren at DES," in addition to one at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High, three at Maxwell Elementary, and two at Thomson High, Thomson Elementary, Thomson Middle and Norris Elementary schools.
"They are all so sweet," he said. "And they call me for everything."
Principal Laura Hughes said she doesn't know how they got along without Mr. Faure before he came to DES. She said many times each day, the school's telephone will ring and the person on the other end is able to say only Mr. Faure's name repeatedly until the staff member goes to get him.
And he doesn't just answer the telephone. Mr. Faure said he goes to the students' homes and to the parents' workplace at McCorkle's to talk to the parents, if needed. Mr. Faure was awarded the Dearing Elementary Top Dog award for the month of October.
"He is so dedicated, and he will do whatever it takes to get help for individual children," Dr. Hughes said. "He's just amazing. And he always has such a positive outlook."
Pre-k teacher Margaret Echols said in the past, they had to make cards with pictures and print the English word and the Spanish word on the card in an effort to communicate with the children.
"But if you don't know the Spanish word, then it's kind of hard to pronounce it correctly," she said. "We've certainly gone to every effort that we could to communicate. Now, Mr. Faure helps us feel more comfortable, and he certainly helps the parents feel more comfortable in being able to communicate with us."
She said they have had some parents who were not able to read, even in their own language, "and that becomes an even bigger wall between us," when the teachers tried communicating with them.
"We want these parents to be just as involved as any other parents," she said. "We've really been thankful for Mr. Faure. The kids love him, and he's such a character. We keep him rather busy, I must say."
The parapro is just as busy with the English-speaking students as he is with the Spanish-speaking ones. Ms. Echols said the pre-k classes are learning a Spanish word each week from Mr. Faure. He also reads books to them in Spanish and English and sings songs with them.
"The kids just enjoy Mr. Faure, he's such a wonderful person," she said. "They really look forward to seeing him. They greet him in Spanish in the halls. They're not perfect with it, but it helps to keep that in the forefront."
And this interaction is helping the Spanish-speaking students feel more comfortable with learning English and feeling "more special, like they are teaching us," Ms. Echols said. In the past, her students from homes where only Spanish was spoken would not talk at all at school.
But now that Spanish is integrated with the English in their classroom, the students are speaking to each other, and their English conversation is increasing as the year progresses.
"They really seem to enjoy it, and it's amazing what they take in," she said. "It's really much easier for them to acquire English when they are immersed in Spanish and English at this age. ... Since we have Mr. Faure this year, we have just kind of tried to take advantage of him as much as we can, and hope that he will be here for a very long time."
Originally from Puerto Rico, Mr. Faure has been in the United States for 20 years, working for Delta Airlines and Thermal Ceramics. His wife, Rita, is a retired teacher from McDuffie County, and still teaches part-time.