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Educator named foreign language teacher of the year

Photo by Lisa Hopper

Photo by Lisa Hopper

SUWANEE -- A Gwinnett County Public Schools teacher will be honored this weekend as the Foreign Language Association of Georgia's K-12 Foreign Language Teacher of the Year.

Joe Frank Uriz, a Spanish language teacher at Parsons Elementary School, was selected for the organization's top honor. The award recognizes his ability to engage students in the interest of, acquisition of and proficiency in a foreign language.

"Language is so easy for them," Uriz said of the students he teaches. "They absorb so fast. I'm amazed at how much they learn."

Uriz has experience teaching at the elementary, middle and high school levels, but he said teaching the younger students is fun.

"I love the puppets and the songs and the stories that all the kids love," he said.

Growing up, Uriz said he wanted to be a veterinarian, but one of his Spanish teachers made him decide to pursue a career in education.

Uriz, a native of Decatur, spoke Spanish when he was growing up. His father is from Pamplona, Spain, and his mother is of Cuban descent. He decided to take Spanish in eighth grade to learn about the grammar and literature of the language, and he continued to take Spanish through his senior year of high school.

Uriz previously taught in DeKalb and Fulton counties. He joined Gwinnett County Public Schools and Parsons Elementary in 2008. Earlier this school year, he was named a Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year semifinalist.

He previously earned school-level Teacher of the Year honors in DeKalb and Fulton counties.

"I'm not the type of person that wants recognition," he said. "(But) I'm very honored and humbled to receive the (FLAG) award," Uriz said. "It makes me feel good that my peers nominated me for the award."