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In the 1960s Elia had a dream. She wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Maybe it was because of her experience playing with her eight younger siblings. Or maybe she just wanted to earn some respect.


But to become a teacher in her native Mexico meant she would need a lot of money. And while she lived in a large and elegant middle-class home, there were those brothers and sisters to care for. Her parents told her they didn't have the money. She'd need to lower her expectations; she'd need to pursue a 'smaller career.' After all, her future would be as wife and mother.

While apparently being a teacher wasn't to be, Elia eventually did get a job at a school. She worked in administration for the Colegio Montessori Mexico. Day in and day out she'd show up and smile and take care of her bosses. She excelled at doing what others asked her to do. She always aimed to please.

It didn't take long for the children to start flocking to Elia. They always wanted to sit on her lap. Parents started noticing how good she was with their kids; their children were so content when they were around her.

When the school suddenly had an available teaching position, they asked Elia if she wanted to train to become a teacher. A real teacher! They couldn't ignore her innate talent with children. She enthusiastically said yes and embarked on her studies. And then she lived at home with her parents year after year, and worked diligently to repay the $10,000 loan to get her degree.

It wasn't easy, but Elia's childhood dream had come true! She didn't think she'd ever own her own home or anything as grand as that, but she was a teacher. That was enough. She says she was happy.

Thirty-four-year-old Elia Cobb was living in Forest Grove with her new husband, Randy. She didn't speak English and was nervous about her new life in America. She was thrilled to have fallen in love with such a wonderful man, but she had worries. What if it didn't all work out?

Randy tried his best to assure her that everything would be fine. He made phone calls and visited schools to see if there was work for his new wife. She still wanted to teach.

And Elia did finally return to teaching. She worked for the Migrant Head Start Program, teaching migrant farm workers' children year after year. She worked long days since she was required to visit the labor camps to meet with her students' parents in the evenings and took courses on weekends at local universities.

But after years of teaching for this program, she started to realize that she was living her entire life giving to others while her own family was being ignored. She had two sons and a husband - and she missed them.

Elia wondered if she could ever continue the Montessori work she learned years earlier in Mexico, on her own. Was it too big of a dream? She worried it was.

Elia's lack of confidence using English was a particular and constant hurdle. Randy helped to ease that challenge the best he could. Elia's husband was sure she could do it, though.

Randy was certain Elia could provide a quality program for local Spanish-speaking families. And then, as the new business went from fantasy to reality, Elia started believing too. Eventually, the couple hung a sign on the front of their immaculate Forest Grove home: Montessori Pre-school Childcare.

Before long her mostly Latino classroom was clearly multi-cultural. Parents are parents, after all. No matter the language they speak, no matter their cultural background, parents simply want 'education with care,' as Elia puts it. Parents just want their young children loved, she says.

And they are.

'Working with the children,' a smiling Elia says when asked about the best part of her job. 'Oh … the children!' she says with tears in her eyes.

'Her work is a part of her whole life,' Randy chimes in. 'It is her passion.'

Little Elia never thought she'd be a teacher. She never thought she'd leave Mexico and pursue United States citizenship. She never dreamed she'd own her own home and have such a wonderful family. She was taught to not expect much.

But sometimes, fortunately, good things don't only come to those with big dreams and bigger expectations. Sometimes they come to big-hearted people who just love kids.

Jonathan Kipp is a freelance writer. He lives in Forest Grove.

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