Mama Patty's work is never done

Peruvian immigrant learns new 'language' to help her students

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Her students call her Mama Patty. Patricia Maradiegue has taught the English language learners class for the past two years. During that time, they have grown to adore her, and she returns the feeling.

Maradiegue hangs their photos on her bulletin board in her classroom at Craig Middle School and gives them nicknames, such as Grandpa for Jesus Loya, because he's always acting tired.

Things are working out for the woman who immigrated here from Peru four years ago.

Maradiegue lived near Trujillo in Northern Peru and worked a variety of jobs there. Among other things, she worked with mentally disabled students. The students made souvenirs, such as T-shirts and pens, and Maradiegue helped them sell the items.

Eventually, she immigrated with her daughter, Alejandra, an eighth-grader now. The job as English language learners teacher seemed perfect for her. She had a degree in English interpretation and loved working with children.

But Moffat County School District's Hispanic population almost entirely is composed of Mexicans. For Maradiegue, learning the Mexican dialect of Spanish was almost like learning a third language.

While helping the students learn English, she helps them learn about American culture, too. She includes simple things, such as the impropriety of greeting people in the United States by kissing them on both cheeks.

But it goes both ways. Last year, she helped the English language learner students host a Cinco de Mayo celebration for the rest of the school. One of the lessons -- Cinco de Mayo isn't the same as Mexican Independence Day.

Maradiegue is hesitant to talk about her accomplishments. Kalyn Rogers, who has worked with Maradiegue in the English learners class for the past two years, chalks that hesitance up to cultural upbringing. In Peru, Rogers said, people don't talk much about what they've done.

But Rogers was ready to list her friend's good qualities.

"She can be proud she advocates well for these kids," Rogers said.

Maradiegue handles discipline issues well, and she doesn't hesitate to call families to keep them posted about their children's performances.

"The ELL kids adore her," Rogers said,

When the Boys and Girls Club of Craig was opening, Maradiegue was quick to apply for a position. Realizing the opportunities a bilingual staff member would provide, the club was quick to hire her, Executive Director Jonathan Godes said.

Almost as soon as she began work, the club's Hispanic population tripled, Godes said.

"The children feel comfortable approaching her and having somebody of the same background is a huge asset to us," he said.

But more than that, Maradiegue's ability to communicate with Hispanic parents has helped the club.

"What really gives her unique value is Latino parents will come in . . . and they are very apprehensive about the club. For her to relate to the parents in their own language has been great," Godes said.

When she left Peru, Maradiegue left behind her father and three brothers. But she's quick to point out that Rogers is her sister.

Combine that with the affection of her students and the members of the Boys and Girls Club, and it's apparent that Maradiegue is doing well, indeed.

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