Teacher Feature: Surrey’s Oruru gives children tools to succeed

Inspires students to push past barriers, find success

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Yeneer Oruru, special education (RISE) teacher at Surrey Hills Elementary School. (Photo provided)

Editor’s Note: Yukon Public Schools’ 11 “Teacher of the Year” finalists are being profiled in The Yukon Progress. Finalists were selected by peers to represent their school sites. A committee of past YPS winners and professional development representatives will select the Teacher of the Year with the winner announced at a March 26 banquet.

Yeneer Oruru has been awarded the 2019-20 Teacher of the Year for Surrey Hills Elementary School. This is Yeneer’s third year teaching special education at Surrey Hills, but her 15th year as an educator.

Her prior experience includes six years as a special education teacher at Western Heights, four years as a first-grade teacher in Ohio, and two years teaching grades kindergarten through third at a private Christian school in Texas.

Mrs. Oruru has a Bachelors’ degree in Elementary Education from Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. She holds a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Dayton in Ohio. Oruru finds joy in giving children the experience of learning and the tools to succeed. Therefore, she’s returned to school for a second Master’s in Special Education Administration from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany.

Oruru obtained her National Board Certification in November 2018 for Reading Language Arts in Early and Middle Childhood. She now serves as a mentor for the new candidates seeking certification in the state.

Oruru is the representative for Yukon Professional Educators Association (YPEA) at her site. Oruru leads in the Culture Committee and the Building Leadership Team at her school. She is also a mentor to a first-year teacher.

Oruru started a Coffee Cart to help her students practice the life skills necessary for everyday needs. The proceeds from the Coffee Cart allow her to incorporate educational fieldtrips into her curriculum while at the same time allowing her students to become involved in their community.

Oruru’s drive and commitment to reach each child regardless of their challenges stem from her grandmother, who wanted a better life for her family.

At the age of four, she sent Oruru to America the land of opportunities. Her grandmother sold lollipops, peanuts, and chips in the streets of Havana.

“She saved up enough money to buy me a plane ticket.”

Oruru faced many trials as a child. She lived with a distant family relative who later took her own life. Her grandmother promised her to come soon, but it wasn’t until Oruru was twelve that she was able to fulfill her promise.

Oruru watched how her middle-aged grandmother worked three jobs to pay bills for a studio apartment in the ghetto side of Miami. Her grandmother, at the age of 55, learned enough English to earn her nurse assistant certification.

They eventually moved from Liberty City, into a two-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach. Her grandmother, with perseverance, brought four additional relatives to America.

Oruru’s grandmother never owned a car, bought new clothes, or went on vacation because her sole purpose in life was to bring as many relatives as she could to America.

Seeing her grandmother’s determination to improve her surroundings inspired her to excel in education.

Oruru used to work at Burger King part-time as a junior and senior in high school. Her grandmother would wait for her across the street at closing time, and together they would walk home at 11 p.m.

Oruru would help her grandmother pay for the utility bills and send money to Cuba to help her parents and siblings. After working all summer, Oruru had enough money to buy two Greyhound tickets to go to Texas and visit a Christian University she had never heard of.

Still, her grandmother believed that’s where God was leading her to go even though the family had no savings.

After nine years of teaching special education, Oruru said, “Teaching special education is kind of like watching caterpillars who, with time, become beautiful butterflies.”

She’s living proof!

“My goal is to get them to fly and never lose hope.”

She inspires her students to push past the barriers to finding success.

“I finally get to give back to this country that instilled in me a desire to reach my fullest potential,” Oruru said.

Her husband, Enoch Oruru, was born in Kenya, and together they have two children, Michaela Aliya, age six, and Seth Mateo, age three, who were both born in Oklahoma.