It's been slightly more than a year since the family immigrated to
Glendale, and Teodora hasn't gotten homesick at all.
The flaxen-haired Muir Elementary School sixth-grader likes pizza,
strawberry ice cream, Britney Spears, 'N Sync and Hanson. Her bright
green eyes focus sharply when she's asked a question, as she listens
closely and absorbs everything that is said.
After the family's arrival in Glendale, Teodora, with her minimal
grasp of English, was placed for a month in a fourth-grade class. After
her first day of school, she brought home a letter composed in English,
thanking her parents for bringing her to America.
"I didn't feel different," she said about being a new student. Her
teachers made a point of emphasizing that Teodora was "one of us," mom
When Vera Iwanoff, 11, heard Teodora was a new student from Bulgaria,
she wanted to meet her. For Vera, born in the U.S. to Bulgarian parents,
it was important to meet "someone like me."
At home, Vera spoke English and her Bulgarian had gotten rusty. "I had
forgotten some words, but Teodora -- her language was really good," she
said. In the beginning, Vera helped Teodora with her English. Sometimes
she acted as translator for the teacher. Now, a year later, Teodora helps
Vera with her algebra.
In fourth grade, Teodora worked with a teaching assistant in the back
of the classroom to improve her English. She started out at a first-grade
reading level and was grouped with other immigrant students.
By the end of fifth grade, she was reading at a fifth-grade level. Her
teacher, Tammy Webb, gave her an award for most improvement in reading.
"Teodora's caught on quickly and made a lot of friends," Vera said.
The girls are in Randy Kamiya's sixth-grade class. Because their SAT 9
scores were above the 50th national percentile, they became SAT 9
superstars at Muir. The program recognizes students who perform well on
the standardized test.
Kamiya chose Teodora as student of the month for August. Her parents
sat in the Muir auditorium and waited patiently as Assistant Principal
Melissa Stephan read the names of other students getting awards from