MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)--- As Teacher Appreciation Week continues, our second Crystal Apple goes to a married couple.
Raul Medina and Cristina de la Fuente
They are here from Spain on a work visa and are heading back to their home country this summer after five years in the dual language immersion program at Leopold Elementary School in Madison.
The families worked hard on their nomination by submitting two binders full of letters to send them off with a big surprise to show them how much they are loved and will be missed.
Leigh Mills said, “I am here from NBC 15 to present you with our Crystal Apple awards for excellence in teaching. Congratulations! Whooooo!"
“I only can say thank you. This is our school. This is our life. We are here for our students, for our families, for our friends, and thank you so much for this,” said Cristina de la Fuente.
Profe Raul Medina and Maestra Cristina de la Fuente share a life together, a classroom, and a love of teaching.
Raul Medina said, “We prepare a lot of songs. We prepare a lot of activities. So yeah, it's a complement for the students.” Cristina de la Fuente added, “And in the same moment. I think, we are teaching them something that's really real, the respect and the love between us."
Students both past and present said they’ve become much better Spanish speakers thanks to the learning environment created by the pair.
Trenton Heller said, “I knew some of the simple, hola, and that, now I know almost every Spanish word."
Malaya said, “Yo quiero est me profe e maestra, that means I love my teachers."
“They teach us a lot, my classmates. I wish I could stay with them in the class,” said Delaney.
But this year will be their last. They will be back teaching in Spain next school year.
Medina said, “It's going to be hard to go back and start working in the way we used to. Now our heads are running like, we want to change everything in Spain now. We want to work in the way they are teaching here. You see the kids, they’re so happy for coming back the next day."
“It's very, very amazing, the way that they work together, the way that they teacher together, the way they handle their classrooms. It's really kind of magical once you're a parent and get that experience,” said Sara Pirnstill, parent of student.
de la Fuente said, “We always wanted to work together because we knew we could do something special and in five years, we did it!” Medina added, “Yeah, so this is the result. The support from the families, support, our colleagues, so we have to thank all of them."
They’re in the swan song of their career here in Madison, but their impact on their students’ lives will last forever.
While some of the parents are upset about their departure, the Madison Metropolitan School District explained that in this exchange program, guest teachers are assigned for up to three years with a possible two year extension. They said, "when that extension has been exhausted, the exchange teachers are no longer able to remain in the U.S. while teaching under the J-1 visa."
Tuesday’s first honorable mention goes to Laura Wilberding, a Spanish teacher at Cuba City High School, for creating a class specifically for Spanish-speaking families and for working to make sure they can successfully transition into their community.
The second honorable mention goes to Charles Dean, who is a strength coach at East High School. He also teaches anti-bullying and self-defense classes to younger kids, both in public schools and through the Goodman Community Center and the Boys and Girls Club.