Ole! Denver teacher wins top award Equal education key for 'gringo'

Teacher David Mirich has one key that has opened friendships with his Hispanic students at North High School. In his words, he’s “a gringo that speaks Spanish.”

Mirich easily rattles off lessons about history and government in his students’ native language. Many of the youngsters don’t yet speak English and have recently moved to the country.

For the past three years, Mirich has worked at the north Denver high school. His large classroom is nestled in a corner on the second floor. He has not only taught the students lessons from textbooks, he has taught them lessons about life, encouraging them to pursue an education and help their community.

The extra hours he has spent with his students – in and out of the classroom
– have been recognized by the National Association for Bilingual Education. The group has named Mirich the 1994 National Bilingual Teacher of the Year.

Last night, Mirich was honored at the Colorado Hispanic Youth Leadership Awards banquet, which brought hundreds of people to a downtown Denver hotel.

Along with the teacher, 11 students from across the state were recognized for their achievements.

During a speech that continuously slipped from English to Spanish, the educator encouraged the youngsters to pursue an education. He used his own students as examples to follow.

“It is very gratifying when my students are able to break through the barriers to success that society has put in their way. They have broken through the language barrier, color barrier, cultural barrier and also, the gender barrier.

“They have achieved success despite the pitiful bilingual programs,” he added.

Mirich, the vice president of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education, is an outspoken proponent of bilingual education. “When it’s done well,” he said, “it works.”

“We have to understand that these kids have a right to an education that’s comprehensible to them. These kids deserve and have a right to an equal education. An equal education would mean in Spanish,” said Mirich, who lives in the same north Denver community where he works.

For the teacher, education and community service are key. He pushes his kids to go away to college and encourages them to come back to help others.

“Maintain the confidence that you have in yourselves and build on it. Then share your wisdom and experience with others who need help,” Mirich said last night. “Only in this way can we help the Hispanic community to exercise its rightful influence in society.”

The words fell on the ears of several students who attended the banquet, including the following 11 honorees who were recognized for their own

Olalla Trevizo for art; Shawn Archibeque for athletics; Irene Bujanda for business; Stephanie Chavez for community service; Tanya Gutierrez for drama and speech; Melissa Diaz for foreign languages; Steven Gallegos for journalism; Angelique Diaz for leadership; Jesus Chavez for mathematics; Alfred Campos for music; and Shawna Rivale for science.

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