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Image of Consuelo Carrillo Standing outside of her classrooms at El Pueblo Learning Center

Pima Educator Wins National Teacher of the Year Award

Adult Education instructor Consuelo Carrillo remembers what it was like to be an adult learner, struggling to improve her English despite having a college degree in her native country.

“When I moved here, it was like starting all over again,” said Carrillo, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1998 to be with her new husband. “I thought my English was fine, but nobody could understand me.”

Perhaps that experience helped turn Carrillo – who started out as a Pima Adult Ed student – into the excellent Pima Adult Ed teacher that she is today.

"We all have challenges when we are learning. I try to figure those out to help my students overcome them." ~ Consuelo Carrillo

Carrillo was honored as National Teacher of the Year by the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) earlier this year.

“We all have challenges when we are learning. I try to figure those out to help my students overcome them. If they are interested in learning, I try my best to help them and to find the resources to grow,” Carrillo said. 

In nominating Carrillo, Jodi Perin, assistant program manager at El Pueblo Liberty Adult Learning Center, said, “Consuelo is an exceptional teacher with a rare gift for empowering student independence in her classes. The students and their learning are always the center of attention."

From Adult Education Student to Pima Educator

Carrillo came to the U.S. with a degree and a career in management information systems. Carrillo quickly realized she would have to polish her English skills. She had always been independent, but found she couldn’t make herself understood while doing such routine errands as shopping.

She came to Pima, where an intake counselor at Pima Adult Basic Ed interviewed her and, to Carrillo’s dismay, assessed her as a beginner.

Consuelo Carrillo at a whiteboard in her classroom
Consuelo Carrillo in her classroom

“I was very frustrated,” she said.

Frustrated but determined, she started taking ESL classes. Her supportive husband drove her to school, until she decided to take a bike and ride to school.

“I was taking morning and evening classes because I really wanted to improve,” she said.

After completing advanced level ESL classes, an instructor advised Carrillo that it would be useful to complete her GED, even though Carrillo already had her high school and college degrees. She earned her high school equivalency in 2000. She later served as an AmeriCorps member with Pima’s Family Literacy Corps and was hired as a part-time staff instructor in 2010.

Today, she tries to build in her adult students the confidence that she developed over time. 

“I try to give them the confidence to speak up,” she said.

A full-time educator with Pima’s Adult Basic Education for College and Career (ABECC) since 2015, Carrillo currently teaches an Early Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training course in partnership with Microsoft that focuses on Computer Science and the Python coding language.

She also volunteers for Literacy Connects and as a pre-marriage counselor and data analyst with the Hispanic Pastoral Diocese of Tucson.

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