Coronavirus News: New Jersey teacher bridges language, technology gap for kindergartners

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- This year's Teacher Appreciation Week is taking on a special meaning during these challenging times, as educators learn to teach remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

One teacher from Newark has a special gift for reaching young students learning English and technology.

Yamila Lopez teaches kindergarten to kids who have been through a lot, as many came through the detention centers at the border but ended up in New Jersey.

They speak Spanish but are learning English quickly, and many of their parents had never seen a Chromebook until their kids came home with them weeks ago.

"If they were on the Chromebook, 'OK, turn it around, that's the button,' so step by step we were doing it because they didn't know," she said. "And it's like, I don't know how to do heart surgery. And that was like heart surgery to them."

The parents are currently picking up English with their children, and it helps that Lopez came to the U.S. from Cuba when she was 10. She can relate to their struggles.

"They went through a lot coming here," she said. "I mean, they tell me their stories, and their families are very limited. When I conference with them, they tell me a lot of them didn't make it either past first grade, second grade."

Principal Rosa Inacio says Lopez has carried excellence in classroom straight into virtual learning.

"She does web conferences with them on a daily basis, and she just has established a routine she keeps that is very important for our little one," she said. "She's just phenomenal all around."

Lopez credits her own family.

"I love education," she said. "My dad was a teacher, but he stopped because of censorship...I've been around books forever. I love reading, reading, reading...My dad always taught me that education is the light in the darnkess.

Her students and their parents for very grateful for the light she provides.

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