On February 27, 2021, Eva Cristina García Pérez, a pre-school teacher from the Murcia Adventist Church, was awarded the Educa Abanca prize for the "Best Teacher in Spain 2020", eighth in the category of Infant Education. The teacher received the award in the 4th edition of this national competition.
E.A. Who is Eva Cristina García Pérez?
E.C.G.P. I am the third of four sisters from an Adventist family in Murcia. My parents came to know the Adventist Church when I was 8 years old. Since then, my life has revolved around the church. I was baptised by Pastor Fernando Bosqued at the age of 16. Since my youth, I have always enjoyed working in the church, in different departments: Sabbath school, scouts, youth, family ministry... which has helped me to develop as a person and to establish a foundation for my professional work.
I married a young Adventist man from my church, Philip, more than 20 years ago, and I have grown with him both spiritually and as a teacher, as we share the same profession. The Lord blessed us with two sons, Samuel and David, and we continue to work for the church, teaching our children and other children.
Among my hobbies, I would highlight sports and a love for nature. I go hiking, mountain biking, and cycling, but my great passion is in the mountains, climbing numerous peaks, where I get inspired and find myself closer to my Creator.
E.A. Why did you choose to study Early Childhood Education?
E.C.G.P. From a young age, I wanted to be a "Miss". I love that word and I was clear about what I wanted to do: I am passionate about children, I enjoy being with them and I keep learning, every day, by their side.
I have been a teacher for more than 20 years and every day that goes by, I continue to practice this profession with the same enthusiasm that I had when I started. Now, after all these years, I realise that this vocation is a gift that God has given me, which is why I consider myself lucky and blessed.
Throughout my professional career, I have always seen the Lord’s guidance in all the things I have done and the new challenges He presented me with. These experiences have led to my achievements being recognized by all those around me: students, families, colleagues and institutions.
E.A. What are the Educa Abanca awards and how many categories are there?
E.C.G.P. The Educa Abanca awards―on a national level―recognise teachers who stand out for their educational quality, their teaching work, their treatment of pupils, and their interest in their pupils’ personal development.
These prestigious awards are known as the "Goya of Education". The main feature of these awards is that no individual teacher can be nominated, as it must be the pupils' families who put them forward for the awards.
There are five different categories for the different educational stages: Pre-school, Primary, Secondary, Vocational Training, and University. These prizes are awarded annually, with the aim of publicly recognising the work of great teachers who live and enjoy their work.
E.A. You have been awarded in the category of Early Childhood Education. How many finalists were there and how did it feel to receive this recognition?
E.C.G.P. In this year's competition, there were more than 1500 applications in all categories. In Early Childhood Education, 233 entries were submitted for this award. After several selections, 19 candidates were left and, in the last evaluation, we were chosen as the 10 finalists in this category.
The requirements for evaluating us were difficult, as they valued multiple actions: varied methodologies, innovative activities, implementation of technologies in the classroom, impact on social networks, development of materials, teacher training, and publications.
For me, it was a great satisfaction when, at the graduation of my 5-year-old pupils, I was informed by the families that they had nominated me for this award. It was a special graduation because it was virtual, something new for all of us as we were in the middle of confinement, but there were no barriers that prevented us from saying goodbye to my pupils at the infant stage.
This made me feel happy for the affection shown by the families who appreciated my work with their children for three years. I was very moved by this recognition as I saw the fruit of my work both in my pupils and in their families.
E.A. What do you think sets you apart from the other nominees, for having received this award?
E.C.G.P. I am completely sure that this award is a gift given to me by my Great Master. All these merits are not mine, but are part of my walk with God. When we allow ourselves to be guided by Him, everything we do becomes great and special.
Ever since my childhood, I have always loved the book of Proverbs. I have underlined many texts, but I would like to highlight one that I have kept in mind, in my personal and professional life:
"Trust wholeheartedly in the Lord and not in your own intelligence. Keep the Lord in mind in all that you do, and He will lead you in the right way" (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
One of my biggest secrets to doing well at work is to say a prayer before I go to school. On the way to school, in the car, I pray, daily, to the Lord for His direction and help, and I think that's my big difference from the other nominees.
E.A. How does your faith affect the way you teach?
E.C.G.P. A believer cannot separate his work from his religious principles. When I am with my students, when I teach them things, I cannot help but reflect the beliefs that govern my life; in short, I bear witness to what I believe.
I could compare this to the image reflected in a mirror: if you look in the mirror, you see the reflection, but not the reality. This is the same with my faith when I teach; I cannot show my beliefs, but they are reflected in everything I do: in the way I act, the way I speak, my character, the way I deal with the children and my colleagues... Simply put, it is a small reflection of the character of Jesus.
E.A. Why is early childhood education important in today's society?
E.C.G.P. The infant stage is the beginning of the educational stage. It is important because it lays the foundations for children's future learning and the formation of their character. For 3 years, parents place in your hands, the most valuable thing they have: their children.
At this stage, they begin to learn values, beliefs, norms, social behaviour patterns and the development of self-esteem. For all these reasons, the infant stage is of great importance because it marks the cognitive and emotional development of children.
As a Seventh-day Adventist teacher, I believe it is vital that children experience this stage as joyfully and happily as possible, especially with students who live in disadvantaged environments.
E.A. What can an Adventist teacher working in a non-Adventist school bring to the children?
E.C.G.P. There are many things that an Adventist teacher can bring to the school. One of the wonderful functions of a Christian is to be a LIGHT to others, to all those around us: students and colleagues. This means that the blessings that God gives me are poured out to them.
An Adventist teacher can also contribute a great number of aspects that condition the child and form his or her personality: affection, joy, affection, humility, tenderness, illusion, hope... characteristics of our God.
In addition, we have the opportunity to make our faith known to our mates, showing what we are and what we believe.
E.A. What has been the reaction of your school and pupils’ parents to this award?
E.C.G.P. The reaction in my school has been very special for me. It is a small school, with a medium tolow socio-cultural level among the families.
This award has produced a great deal of interest in the surrounding area, which has given the school greater prestige, as it was not well regarded in the area in which it is located. So it has been a great blessing for everyone.
The families of the centre have shown me great affection through all the messages I have received over the last few days. My colleagues have also shown me their admiration and affection, valuing not only my work as a teacher but also as a person.
In addition, this award I have received has been echoed in the media, and I was interviewed on regional television, as a sign of pride in having competent and prepared people in the region who stand out at a national level.
E.A. How has your family received it?
E.C.G.P. All my family, most of them Adventists, have shared with me the great happiness that comes from having national recognition of such a high level. They have always supported me in whatever I have done, because they know that my work is vocational and that I enjoy it.
It has also been a source of pride for them, spreading this news in their social networks and friendship circles, where they have received expressions of affection and congratulations.
We all know that God blesses us enormously when we trust in Him and put everything in His hands.
E.A. What would you say to Adventist teachers reading this?
E.C.G.P. I could tell them many things, but I think the main thing is that they should never forget one very important thing: "We are instruments in God's hands".
We have a great responsibility to society when working with children: we are the centre of attention for many families and our work is to show the character of our Saviour, thus being a great blessing for them.
The church is the best place to establish a foundation for our professional work, where we learn to be good teachers: to speak in public, to express ideas, to teach children and adults... In short, to put our gift at the service of God, both in the church and in our work.
I would also tell them that they should always trust that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to, as long as they hold on to God's hand, for He is their Great Teacher.
E.A. Any outstanding educational advice for parents, from the “Best teacher in Spain 2020” in early childhood education?
E.C.G.P. The best advice I can give them for this stage of education is to enjoy their children's education by participating in it. Schools teach, but families educate, which is why it is essential for parents to work with their children.
This stage of childhood passes very quickly, so I advise them to enjoy it greatly and not to be overwhelmed; to make every moment spent with the children a special moment, in which they learn from them. These are moments where they live experiences that make them grow as people: happy moments and, above all, moments that bring them closer to God.
There is a comparison that I always use in my parents' meetings at the beginning of the infant stage. I compare the child to a tree that is beginning to grow. Those trees need a guide to grow straight and that little tree attaches itself to the guide until it has grown and is strong. That guide is the parents and they are the ones who must help that tree to grow straight so that it stays that way forever.
I would like to give one last piece of advice for parents to teach their children. This advice is found in the Bible:
"My son, listen to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching, for they will be to you a beautiful ornament: like a necklace or a crown" (Proverbs 1: 8, 9).
The original article was published here.
Author: Esther Azón, co-editor of the Adventist Review and QueCurso.es. Social media manager for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Spain, and web content editor at HopeMedia.es.