Who We Are – Natasha Pantoja
Natasha Pantoja is the first face many families see as the lead secretary at Carrie Downie Elementary School. She loves her job and particularly loves connecting with students and families who don’t speak English as a first language. Pantoja moved from Puerto Rico to the Colonial School District when she was 13 years old, a decision made so her younger brother who is autistic could receive the services he needed at Colonial’s Leach school.
“When I started at McCullough it was hard for me because everyone was having these conversations and I was just able to say yes, no, maybe, just single-word answers.” Pantoja thanks her teachers and counselors for helping her become more fluent in English, especially those who tutored her after school when they could have chosen not to do so. As a child, she recalls translating for her mother when she visited schools or stores. While at William Penn, having mastered English, Pantoja continued to thrive. The now 22-year-old is taking college courses at Wilmington University, majoring in organizational leadership. Meanwhile, by day, she takes delight in returning to Colonial as an employee and being able to assist Spanish speaking children and their families. “It’s been very emotional in a way because I’m connecting with the students. We have three or four children who started in August knowing no English and seeing them is like seeing myself. I knew they were scared and I assured them it’s okay.” Those students are now conversing more freely with their classmates, and with “Ms P” as she is affectionately called. “This has been an amazing experience….I’m really grateful to be here again in Colonial!”
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