Aiken kindergarten teacher wins Malheur region’s Teacher of the Year award

Mayra Pelayo, center, pictured in a photo taken in 2019 with a group of Ontario High graduates who were kindergarten students in her classroom. (Submitted photo)

ONTARIO – When Mayra Pelayo left her home in Mexico at age 13, she was a confident, bookish student. 

She was captain of the volleyball and basketball teams and she dreamed of becoming an architect. 

But Pelayo’s life changed overnight when her parents and five siblings moved to Ontario in 1990.

She didn’t speak a word of English. School was suddenly a challenge for the bright teenager. She started working alongside her parents in the fields after school and in the summers and she ached for home.

In high school, as she continued to struggle with the language, Pelayo felt some teachers gave up on her. Some didn . . .