Father-Daughter Team Spread Inspiration in the Classroom
Alfredo and Jennifer Mercado are a dynamic pair, who thrive best as a team in their colorful medium of crayons, construction paper, kid-safe scissors and cardboard cutouts at Adelante Selby Spanish Immersion School in Atherton.
The duo complements one another well in the classroom, sharing ideas and strategies on the job – and sometimes over lunch – that aim to inspire transitional kindergarten students to correctly sound out words, count to the highest numbers they can and, of course, learn to get along with each other.
It’s a fruitful partnership that Jennifer said greatly benefits the students of her classroom, who adoringly refer to her teaching counterpart as “Señor Alfredo.” And, as far as jobs go, Alfredo feels he could hardly do better than having his own daughter as his boss.
Jennifer has taught for nine years in Spanish Immersion classrooms and four years at Adelante Selby. During those four years, her father, Alfredo, has been a room parent – coming in and assisting her with lessons, activities and pretty much anything he can do to lend a hand in educating Jennifer’s TK students.
“I never thought I’d be working side by side with my father,” Jennifer said. “He’s always supported me … and he’s always loved being an educator, but I never thought he’d be teaching with me. It’s really nice. I get to spend lots of time with him. And, the kids love him. They get real excited when he walks in … he’s like the grandpa in the classroom. He helps them out.”
Added Jennifer: “He tries to push them too … to learn more, to be more independent. Especially those who know their letters, their sounds – he’s trying to push them to start reading as soon as he feels they’re ready.”
Alfredo, who said he’s “very proud” of the arrangement, is “happy helping in the classroom.”
“For me, the most important thing is that the students become independent … because that’s very important. For them to learn to push themselves,” Alfredo said.
On any given day in her classroom, Jennifer said she’ll be assisting students in centers during exploration time. One group will be working with Alfredo, assembling artwork related to phonics lessons – in this case, making bracelets using the letter D. Her dad helps children cut out circles and punch holes for the letters, while a teaching aide will be working with students learning something else at a different center, with Jennifer herself assisting another group of students while overseeing the overall classroom.
Watching the dynamic between father and daughter is a treat – and an effective teaching combination, according to Principal Warren Sedar.
“They are both very nurturing educators,” Sedar said. “If a student needs to be redirected, (Alfredo) helps them … so she can continue to teach. And, teaching this grade level can be very challenging … and to have more caring adults in the classroom who know what they’re doing … is very helpful.”
Added Sedar: “Obviously, having this family-community kind of atmosphere in the classroom is a big plus.”
Jennifer said education is indeed a family affair.
Before he started working in education, Alfredo was a surgeon. When he came from Mexico to live in the United States, he started working with the school district as a one-on-one special education aide.
In his capacity as a room parent, Alfredo is a volunteer with the school district.
“What I like most about this, is that I get to see my dad here and see him with the kids … he brings a lot of joy into the classroom.”
Jennifer said she and Alfredo spend time outside the classroom as well, discussing their students. They go to lunch and dinner sometimes to talk about lesson plans and strategies.
“I’m like, ‘OK, dad, this is what we’re doing,’ or, ‘I want to try something different with this group of students,’ or, ‘can you help me with that group’” Jennifer said. “It helps to have another person there for ideas and planning in the classroom.”
Alfredo said he couldn’t be more thrilled with the arrangement he and his daughter share in the classroom.
“I am very happy. I never thought I’d be working with my daughter. Before all of this, I was just her father – and now, she is my boss,” he said, laughing.