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Sitting above Elizabeth’s Bezerra’s desk is her first-grade report card. Inside that card, a teacher’s marks show six-year-old Elizabeth was reading below her grade level.

“I share it with my students because I want them to know, I wasn’t a good reader either,” Bezerra explained.

She believes showing students she also struggled allows her to do what she does best, build relationships.

Bezerra, who was nominated by a student’s parent Jena Reichelt, and explains that first-grade is serious business.

Earlier this year a student asked her, “When is nap time?” She informed her students the days of having a designated snooze time were long gone.

“I think people forget how hard first-grade is,” she said.

When entering first-grade, her students are no longer the youngest in the building and their days are filled with new skills that will set them up for success through their entire school career, including how to read.

Educating and Inspiring Students to Thrive

Before diving into academics, Bezerra prioritizes building a relationship with her students and letting them know, she believes in them. Without addressing those two factors first, she argues, her efforts are futile.

“If I can’t connect with my students, why would they want to persevere?” she explained. “What student wants to learn digit grouping, or how to read through a passage? Before I can teach that, I must build a relationship with my kiddos.”

Bezerra’s passion stems from years as a struggling student.

“Looking back at my elementary school days, I didn’t have a teacher who believed in me until 4th grade,” she explained. “I want to be that person for my kids.”

She prides herself on following her students long after they’ve left her classroom. “No matter how old they get, my students are always my ‘firsties,’” she explained.

She boasts about keeping up on her former students and parents have noticed.

“Two of my children have had her and I know my children are being well cared for when they are in her class,” wrote Reichelt. “She is an excellent teacher who is always ready to help students learn. She is patient and kind. She is the very best of Academy District 20.”

Why Education?

As a child, Bezerra remembers spending her spring and holiday breaks in a classroom. Her aunt was a first-grade teacher in California. But, after years of getting to know students at that age, Bezerra was convinced, becoming an educator was not in her future.

In college, Bezerra started studying pre-med, then accounting and at one point, convinced herself, she’d try to be an interior designer. Meanwhile, she was working as gymnastics coach, a nanny and a camp counselor, all careers she loved because they involved working with children.

“It just kind of dawned me. Why am I looking into all of these other careers? I know what I love doing is running around, being silly and really helping our kiddos have those “aha” moments,” Bezerra explained.

She changed her major one last time to earn a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Fresno Pacific University, the pre-curser major she needed before earning her teaching license and becoming a first-grade teacher.

Coming to ASD20

Bezerra’s career took her around the country, allowing her to teach in places like Tucson, Arizona and Newport, Rhode Island. She landed in Colorado Springs when her husband was hired as a professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Before making their cross-country move, Bezerra remembers speaking with a nurse at her son’s doctor’s appointment who had lived in Colorado Springs. “She told me I needed to work in Academy District 20, so we bought a house right on the border,” Bezerra explained. Three days after moving in, Bezerra received a call to teach at FES.

“The principals spoke about how our school is community-oriented and feels like a big family,” Bezerra remembered. With that reassurance, she remembers thinking, “I really hope I get that job.”

Now, four years later, Bezerra prides herself as a long-standing teacher at FES.

Rapid Fire Questions

What is your why?
“I live for those ‘aha’ moments. When students come back in January, we have these benchmark reading tests. Sometimes our readers – those on the verge of getting it – come back from winter break and it resets them. It gives their brain a moment to pause. They come back and say, ‘oh my gosh, I can read that!’ That is my why.”

Tell me about a time a student made a lasting impact on you.
“I had a student last year who I’ve never seen work so hard to read. You know, COVID hit hard, and it was just wonky. She tried to read at home and her parents were really involved. I was so inspired by this little girl who sat so quietly and worked so hard. She went from a red level to a green, and now she’s in blue. Everyone said I should be proud of myself, but I told them it wasn’t me. The hard work was on her part.”

What do you do in your day to value all students?
“There are a handful of things. I like to verbally tell them, like how happy I am they’re here. I try to notice their haircuts, even if they cut it themselves. Just seeing the little changes within them can make a big difference.”

What keeps you going on the hard days?
“I mean this genuinely and wholeheartedly; I love our staff. When I’m having a hard time, I know I can go to some other teachers. There really is a family feel here.”

If you could pick a superpower, what would it be?
“The ability to heal people, to make people feel better.”

When you were a student, what did you love to eat for lunch?
“Spaghetti day, oh, and I loved Thanksgiving Lunch Day!”

What is your favorite school supply?
"The PaperMate Pens with a medium tip are the most amazing pens in the word. I once accidentally bought the fine tip. Big mistake!”

Is there a quote that inspires you?
“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.” -Unknown

Bezerra added, “This one speaks to me because when I have a student acting out, I know they are not trying to be difficult, but it is because they need something. My job isn’t just to teach them to read and write, but to be a person. It is my job to figure out how to meet their needs because often I help them with these big feelings and help them realize they are important and cared for before they can begin to learn.”

We are honoring our people through sharing their unique stories. This regular new feature, aptly named “Our People,” will shine a light on who they are, their passions and their contributions. The people who uphold our traditions of excellence. We hope you enjoy these stories and will nominate someone to be highlighted in “Our People.”