Teacher Feature - De La O

For our first USD 480 Teacher Feature we will begin, where most of the students of USD 480 begin their educational journey, at Bright Start Pre-K Center with preschool teacher, Mrs. De La O.

Mrs. De La O poses with some of the students of her afternoon preschool class.

Mrs. De La O has been with USD 480 in some capacity for over 10 years and says this district holds a special place in her heart for many reasons.

“USD 480 is where I went to school. My children also attended USD 480, so I think it will always be a place we hold near and dear in all of our lives,” De La O said. “Good and bad experiences in education and young life happened for both my children and myself, so I thought I could be a part of that for the next generation and I try my hardest to make sure most of those experiences are good ones for my students.”

Her first role within USD 480 was as a para at LHS before leaving the district for a while. She returned to USD 480 as a long-term substitute for first grade and kindergarten; as well as, a first grade summer school teacher.

After serving as a long-term substitute for six years, she realized that the classroom was where she belonged and that she would make the biggest impact as a certified teacher with her own classroom. So, with that motivation in mind, she returned to the classroom, this time as a student, to complete her teaching degree.

“My motivation for teaching lies with the children. The effort that is put into education shows everyday for students and faculty everywhere. If we don’t try for them, then how can we expect them to try for anyone else. They deserve our best so we should give it our all if we want the future to be brighter,” De La O said.

She spent the next three years as an interim preschool teacher while she worked to finish her teaching degree. She has since earned her teaching degree and license and has spent the last two years as a full-time certified preschool teacher at Bright Start.

Jamie Downs, Bright Start Principal, says De La O is a wonderful asset to her students, but also to the staff at Bright Start.

“At the beginning of the school year she always reaches out and tries to alleviate any fears the new staff might have by offering suggestions on room arrangements, center ideas, helpful materials to have in the classroom; as well as, any tips or tricks to start the year off successfully,” Downs said. 

De La O said the reason she became a teacher was the tremendous responsibility and opportunity that comes with shaping the next generation.

“The amount of pride I feel when being trusted with the ability to provide education and guidance to the future of our world leaves me speechless. I can’t begin to explain how amazing it is to be able to teach young kids not only what they need to pass to the next grade but also what they can use in their everyday lives,” De La O said.

De La O’s hard work and dedication to teaching has not gone unnoticed to those in her building or those who send their children to Bright Start. For the second year in a row, De La O was named Bright Start’s Teacher of the Year by parents and community members, an acknowledgement she was surprised to receive, but is very proud of.

Mrs. De La O (center) receiving the Bright Start Teacher of the Year Award this October from Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Lana Evans (left) and Bright Start Principal, Jamie Downs (right).

“To be honest, I never expected to be honored in any way,” said De La O. “It always feels great to be acknowledged for the effort you put into anything, but it really does feel like you’re doing something right when other people notice your effort and hard work.”

While De La O was surprised to receive the award not once, but twice, those around her were not at all surprised, including her principal, Mrs. Downs.

“Mrs. De La O builds relationships with all of her students and their families and being bilingual adds comfort to many of our ELL students and parents. She understands and respects cultural traditions and differences. She is kind, caring, and compassionate,” Downs said.

Mrs. De La O (left) receiving the Bright Start Teacher of the Year Award in September 2022 from Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, Lana Evans (right) and Bright Start Principal, Jamie Downs (center).

Mrs. Downs credits the personal touch Mrs. De La O brings to the classroom as one of the main reasons she is so well liked and respected as a teacher.

“She gets to know her students' interests, likes and dislikes, ability level, language, and teaches each and every one of her students as if they were her own children or grandchildren,” said Downs. “She is firm when she needs to be, always consistent, and holds her students to high expectations. These are things we all recognize about her within our building and things the parents realize almost immediately, so it is no surprise that they continue to nominate her for teacher of the year each school year.”

Talking to Mrs. De La O, even if it is just a quick exchange in the halls of Bright Start, you can feel the passion and excitement she brings to the classroom each and every day. Her students are well-behaved and on task in the classroom and orderly and polite as they navigate the building.

Mrs. De La O is a great example in and out of the classroom for her students and her fellow teachers at Bright Start. She is the first teacher most of her students have and does her part to set them up for success as they continue the rest of their educational journey after preschool.

“I hope everyone can be as hopeful as the kids I teach every day. If I did have something to tell the kids or even parents, it would be to always try your hardest. Even if your hardest today doesn’t feel like your best. You can always try again tomorrow,” De La O concluded.