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Spanish Educator is ‘Teacher of the Year’

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Spanish Educator is ‘Teacher of the Year’
Posted on 05/11/2021
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José Iván Sabau Torrelo, fifth-grade teacher in Lyseth Elementary School’s Spanish Immersion program, has been selected as Teacher of the Year 2021 by the Ministry of Education, Embassy of Spain. In recognizing Sabau Torrelo, the Ministry of Education cited an “outstanding” mystery-solving gaming project involving multicultural cooperation that he created for his students.

The project, titled Operación Museo, connected Lyseth fifth-graders with students in Spain at Colegio La Salle in Santiago de Compostela, and Colegio Montserrat Fuhem in Madrid. Sabau Torrelo “implemented gamification methodology to develop a mystery-solving story where students became detectives,” the Ministry of Education said. “Using a dynamic, cross-curricular and student-centered approach, students used their artistic and language skills and explored information about Spanish painters, like Miró and others, as well as geography, mathematics, physical education, and culture to solve the case.”

Sabau Torrelo explained that the two-month gaming project began with a message from a “police officer” asking students for help in dismantling a worldwide organization that was stealing famous paintings from museums. “First, they needed to go to the detective academy to get their licenses,” Sabau Torrelo said. “They needed to overcome many different challenges to do that. Once they graduated, they needed to crack codes, learn about painters and use logical thinking and skills to solve six different cases.”

The Ministry of Education praised the video Sabau Torrelo made about the project and also the project’s other aspects. “The visual and technical quality of Operación Museo’s materials is very high and demonstrates the great potential of numerous, valuable educational tools,” the Ministry of Education said. “The project’s elements combined to create a fun, creative, and engaging plot – full of humor and surprises to fuel students’ interest and attention. Mr. Sabau Torrelo’s students will remember Operación Museo forever and the Spanish teaching community will love the opportunity to learn more about this enriching project.”

“I feel honored,” Sabau Torrelo said, regarding the recognition.

Last year, Lyseth Elementary School won the Ministry of Education, Embassy of Spain’s School of the Year 2020 Award in the elementary school category. Lyseth, home of the only public Spanish immersion program in Maine, won for its “outstanding immersion program” and the school’s “enthusiasm and dedication to the Spanish language and culture.”

The immersion program was begun at Lyseth in 2014 with one kindergarten cohort. A new class was added each year. There is now an immersion classroom at each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said, “The Portland Public Schools is very proud of Iván for winning the Teacher of the Year 2021 award. His innovative Operación Museo project exemplifies his dedication to student learning.  Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the United States and biliteracy in Spanish and English makes students attractive to colleges and future employers. We are very grateful to Iván and other staff at Lyseth for making the Spanish Immersion program there such a success.”


Lyseth Principal Lenore Williams said, “Iván has been steadfast in his commitment to ensure learning for his students is both engaging and interactive and connected to real-life experiences. His students are immersed in the target language and culture and they have content taught to them through an integrated teaching approach that unifies the arts, math, science, writing, and geography. “Operacion Museo” embodies Iván’s approach and beliefs about what and how students should experience learning.”

Carlos Gomez, the district’s Director of Language Development, said, “Engaging students is ‘profesor’ Sabau’s superpower!  His creativity and energy help students to learn language while they learn content and culture, making for a rich, memorable and life-changing experience for his students and colleagues at Lyseth.”