Christopher Munoz-Valdez

  • Christopher Munoz-Valdez When Christopher started at McNair Elementary in the Hazelwood School District, English was not his first language. But he also had difficulty communicating in his native language of Spanish. He was also very shy, which made it challenging for his teachers to assess his skills. But over time, his confidence, self-determination and hard work eventually helped him make great improvements at school.

    In kindergarten, Christopher was kind toward his peers, but would not communicate verbally with them. He had difficulty with transitions and putting forth consistent effort in academics. At times, he would refuse to come to language therapy. Staff could barely get him inside the building to escort him to class. And on top of all of that, he was an English language learner with a language impairment.

    As he progressed in school, he still struggled in language therapy and his reading scores were still lower than ideal. His work was inconsistent and that was reflected in his grades. But something changed in fourth grade.

    “Literally, the first day of fourth grade, Christopher asked his teacher for extra math and reading homework,” said SSD speech-language pathologist Jenna Waldhoff. “Christopher told me that he wanted to improve his math and reading skills right now. We laughed together and told him let’s enjoy the first day of school and get to know your new teacher and classmates.”

    Throughout his fourth-grade year, he continued to make steady improvements and Waldhoff encouraged him to apply to be a safety patrol at school. Despite his initial hesitance, he earned the role and got a boost of confidence in himself. In fifth grade, along with his patrol duties, Christopher’s scores continued to climb. In fact, he reached his goal of graduating out of the Tier 3 reading group.

    “In language therapy, we reminisce about how far he has come these few years,” said Waldhoff. “We talk about how all his progress is due to his confidence in himself and his hard work.”