By Jesika Millano P.
For Al Día Today
For Ralph Gracia, a retired colonel of the United States Air Force and a teacher with many years of experience, all students have strengths and a teacher’s goal should be to help develop them.
Through his preparation and dedication to teaching, he recently earned the prestigious “Extension of Bilingual Education” award at the annual Summoning Ceremony of Dean 2018 of St. John’s University.
“The way to get students to identify their strengths is by giving them a voice in the learning process and by encouraging them to find connections and create relationships to between the text and their lives. As a result of this autonomy, they feel empowered and develop self-esteem which strengthens their decision-making skills, “said Gracia, a native of New York.
His impeccable trajectory in the Force Area has also earned him several special recognitions. One of which was in 2001, when he was selected as the Inspector General (IG) of the 45th Space Wing at the Patrick AFB, and also the first general qualification as “Outstanding”.
After retiring in 2003 from a 21-year military career, he continues to work as director of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Franklin K. Lane Educational Campus where he teaches leadership education, development of the character, and aerospace science to high school students.
Gracia shares that his time with the institution has given him the opportunity to empower his students through teaching and counseling. “Having a positive attitude toward setting goals and teamwork have been vital to the success of my students over the past 6 years on the Franklin K. Lane (FKL) educational campus.”
He also served as an associate professor at the Institute of Technology of New Jersey and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and is the author of countless articles, all published in a bilingual newspaper.
He is currently also working on the co-authorship of a book with a professor at the University of St. John’s and has published several research documents throughout his military and professional career.
For Ralph, who has a doctorate in Education in vocational-technical occupation and adult education, “the most special part of teaching is often what happens after one has left the classroom”.
He also shared about how he learned early in life that academic achievement and the pursuit of excellence are fundamental. These values later became measures of his self-esteem and central beliefs.
Ralph has been married for 32 years ago to Enid Del Valle, originally from Puerto Rico, with whom he has three children. Two of them currently serve as officers in the United States Air Force.
As an educator, he believes in focusing on the needs of the students and involving them in their personal results of learning experience. “We must also, as educators, recognize the success of our students and celebrate their achievements,” he added.