In an earlier version of the story, it was reported that Spanish teacher Azalia Felix teaches three periods of Spanish 1, one period of Spanish 2 and one period of the Spanish 3 Native Speakers class. This story has since been updated on Sept. 3 to show that Felix’s teaching schedule has changed to one Spanish 2 class and five Spanish 1 classes.
Azalia Felix stands at the door of her Spanish 2 classroom, ready to greet her first set of students for the day as she assigns each a number that corresponds to a desk in the classroom.
After the tardy bell rings and the students find their seats, Felix stands in front of the classroom with a white bouncy ball in her hands — the kind one usually sees in those baskets at Walmart.
“Hola! Buenos días,” she says in Spanish before transitioning back to English. “Before we start, let’s all stand up and play a game.”
Felix then tells her students that she will pass the ball she’s holding to a student, who in turn will toss it to another person in the classroom while music plays in the background. Once the sound stops, whoever is left holding the ball must share his or her name, age and what the student likes to do, all in Spanish. Then the music will start again and the ball will continue to be tossed around until the teacher pauses the sound for the next person to share.
Once the activity begins, the student left holding the ball after the music stops hesitates at first, nervous to be the first to share. Others share a sigh of relief; at least they did not have to go first.
“Me llamo…” as the student shares while the others look on..
“I like how engaging the game was on the first day of school,” says Spanish 2 student, sophomore Brandon Parra. “It wasn’t like any of my other classes, and it really got my attention.”
That was exactly what Felix had hoped would happen with her students, the teacher said.
“I played the game with all my classes on the first day of school,” she said. “It lets me have fun with them and get to know them a little bit better.”
As the newest addition to the Sunny Hills Spanish program, Felix is bringing her passion for Spanish to Sunny Hills.
Originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, Felix moved with her parents, her older and younger brothers to Southern California when she was 14 years old, entering her freshman year at Fontana High School.
“It was really challenging moving here, especially not knowing the language,” Felix said. “But, I was a student who was ready to put in extra hours, come in after school and put in my full effort.”
Throughout high school, the Spanish instructor said she was influenced by her friends who were just as dedicated to their education.
“We all were really good students throughout high school,” Felix said. “All of us went to college and got a degree.”
After graduating from Fontana High, she attended the University of California, Irvine [UCI], where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She then obtained her master’s degree in Spanish literature and linguistics from California State University, San Bernardino.
After graduating from UCI, Felix began working at Cypress College, where she was a part of Kids College, a program that teaches young children basic math and reading comprehension. It was there that she decided that education was the career path for her.
But even earlier than that, she earned some inspiration as a student at Fontana High.
“Two of my high school teachers inspired me to become a teacher,” said Felix, who eventually earned her teaching credential in 2016 from Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. “Throughout my years in high school — mostly my senior year — they helped me so much; especially when I was applying for financial aid and universities.”
Before coming to Sunny Hills, Felix taught grades sixth-eighth English language learners at Alder Middle School in the Fontana Unified School District for six years. She also taught Spanish at St. Francis, a private high school located in Watsonville, Calif., for six years as well.
Felix said she first learned about the job opening here at Sunny Hills through an education job website called, edjoin.org.
“One of the reasons why I chose [to apply at] Sunny Hills is because I wanted to be a part of the growing Spanish program,” Felix said. “More and more students have shown an interest in learning Spanish, and the growth of the level 1 classes shows that.”
At Sunny Hills, Felix teaches five periods of Spanish 1 and one period of Spanish 2.
Felix’s students enjoy her teaching style, fun-filled classroom and enthusiasm for the language.
“From my first impression of Ms. Felix, I knew that she was going to be a really good teacher and super nice,” said junior Kathryn Ferreyra, who’s in Felix’s Period 6 Spanish 1 class.
Spanish Department chairman Gene Bordy agrees.
“She is a really positive addition to our Spanish program.” Bordy said. “She has a lot of prior experience and desire to help kids learn Spanish.”
Apart from her passion for her native tongue, Felix enjoys hiking, salsa dancing and traveling. She fell in love with visiting new places, especially when she took a trip to Italy.
After taking a semester of Italian 1 in 2006 at Riverside Community College, she said she decided to explore the country on her own for a month.
“Going to Italy was something I wanted to do for me, for fun, and learning the language really allowed the native people to accept me,” Felix said. “They thought, ‘Wow, she’s really trying; she truly cares about our culture.’ ”
In her first year here, she said she looks forward to sharing her native language with the students of Sunny Hills.
“There’s so much out there in the world,” Felix said. “And learning languages opens doors.”
And will there be more games ahead for her students?
“Of course, lots of games and fun,” Felix said. “These games aren’t just engaging; they’re something that students will remember even after they graduate high school and have moved on.”