Influencer of the Week: Hugo Cancel Pagan of Spring Lake Elementary

Mr. Cancel Pagan has been at Spring Lake Elementary for two years as a bilingual paraprofessional.

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Hugo Cancel Pagan is a bilingual paraprofessional at Spring Lake Elementary School, working with fourth- and fifth-grade English-language learners. He is teaching them to write essays, and students who didn’t know a single word of English last year — and some just a few months ago — are able to write a paragraph in English and carry on conversational English now. 

He serves as a translator for schoolwide conference night, impromptu parent conferences, non-English-speaking parents and more. He came to the United States from Puerto Rico two years ago and has worked hard to get his credentials. He recently got his teacher certification for Florida and hopes to have his own classroom next year.

“He is the definition of an overcomer, not letting the language barrier stop him from reaching his goals and instilling this belief in our students,” Harrelson said. “I do staff shout-outs at the start of every faculty meeting, and he is always shouted out. Teachers are so grateful for his support!”


What do you love most about your school?

The staff and faculty are always willing to help, and the students are so enthusiastic that it makes me love going to work. 


What's your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is seeing the faces of joy on the students I work with when I go pick them up from their teachers. They are always willing to learn something new and make the best out of every lesson.


What motivates you and pushes you to do your best?

The enthusiasm of the students I work with is what keeps me motivated and pushes me to do my best. I would feel like I am letting them down if I do not do the best I can.


What's the nicest thing a student or faculty member has done for you?

One time the students noticed that I was running out of pencils and they came with brand-new packs of pencils with sharpeners so I can always have pencils for them.


What’s your favorite restaurant and favorite meal?

I love Hispanic food, so that is my go-to when I want to eat out.


If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The best way to use superpowers is to help people around us. I already feel I am doing that by going to work every day and making sure that the students have their expectations met and mastered.


What’s your favorite vacation spot and why? 

There is no place like home. That is why I would always choose my hometown in Puerto Rico when I want to have a getaway from any stressors.


What do you like to do in your free time? 

I love learning. I try to learn something new every time I can, so in my free time I like to research, read and watch documentaries.


What’s your favorite book and why? 

My all-time favorite book is “The Little Prince,” because it shows the value of caring for others and it puts in perspective how important it is to be empathetic and understanding.


Tell us about your family

My mother lives here in Florida and is retired from HeadStart. My father is an inspector at the Puerto Rico Police Department, which is why he lives in Puerto Rico.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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