Creating Accessible, Sustainable Communities

Headshot of Juliana Urtubey.
Hannah Alfaro

Although it’s only a few weeks into the fall semester, TMCC has already begun to make a difference during its Year of Sustainability. August saw three workshops and a book club meeting all centered on how our College community can get involved in creating a more sustainable environment. The festivities are only getting started, though, and next on the agenda is one of the most exciting sustainability events of the semester! Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year and “Ms. Earth,” will be visiting the College to speak about her joyful and just sustainability education.

Supportive Education

The National Teacher of the Year Program is the most prestigious teacher recognition program in the country, and Nevada can proudly say Urtubey is making a difference in the state. She taught at Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School in Las Vegas in special education settings and as an instructional strategist developing supports to meet student’s differing academic, social-emotional and behavioral needs.

A good teacher can make all the difference in students’ lives, especially during elementary school, which is why Urtubey has focused her career on acknowledging her students’ strength and accomplishments while helping them serve their community. As a first generation, bilingual immigrant, Urtubey also puts emphasis on helping students be proud of their identities and families.

Both Urtubey and the College’s sustainability champions want to ensure sustainability in a culturally relevant way. This means that diverse perspectives are needed to make a difference in local communities, and that those voices should not only be heard, but celebrated as well. Sustainability efforts cannot happen in a vacuum—they are most successful when they are implemented in the middle of a community by its own members.

“Juliana is someone who can bring joy into tough situations and create solutions out of that,” Professor Micaela Rubalcava said. “She focuses on making sure that academics embrace sustainability. All academic activities should be designed to be culturally rooted, engaged by a diverse group with multiple identities. It’s about joyful justice.”

Now in her 11th year of teaching, Urtubey is known as “Ms. Earth” for her efforts to beautify schools and unify her community through murals and gardens, and has helped raise funds for garden programs in two Las Vegas schools. The schools Urtubey visits are usually understaffed and overcrowded, but through her work, she is able to raise leaders in students and bring new life into old curriculums. She exemplifies the College’s five qualities for sustainability, which include kindness, understanding, respectfulness, fact checking and possibilities, through her teaching and advocacy.

Urtubey was named 2021 National Teacher of the Year due to her “joyous and just” education for all students, which is inclusive and celebratory of all student’s identities, families and communities. Since this announcement, she has shared this message with pre-service teachers, educators and policy makers across the country – including at the White House—and through U.S. and international media, including People Magazine, the TODAY Show, Univision, Telemundo, and Colombia’s El Pais, El Espectador, and RCN Noticias.

The Details

As part of the College’s Year of Sustainability, Urtubey will be speaking in the Student Center at the Dandini Campus on Thursday, Oct. 6, 3:30–4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“We’re so lucky that Juliana is going to be at the College and that local teachers will have the chance to learn from her,” Rubalcava said. “And sustainability is intergenerational, so students, faculty and community members of all ages will be able to learn something from this talk.”

For more information about the event, contact Rubalcava at 775-673-8230.

Get to Know FREE

This event is sponsored by the FREE Learning Community, which named and launched the Year of Sustainability theme throughout the College. Faculty for Radical Empowerment and Enlightenment (FREE) is the College’s longest-running interdisciplinary theme-based learning community. Since 2003, FREE works with approximately 200 students and 10 cross-disciplinary faculty each year in order to involve students, professors and community members in active, universally-relevant, interdisciplinary themes.

The Year of Sustainability will be celebrated throughout the next academic year, and the College will continue to host events and celebrations to get the community engaged.

For more information about the Year of Sustainability, contact the Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability Office.