Melrose Leadership Academy

BA- Latin American Studies, minor in education with an emphasis in multicultural education,
California State University, Hayward: MS

Going into education was an accident. I did not apply for a teaching position after receiving my credential. Somehow a principal got my number, called me at home, and asked me to apply, and then hired me. My first teaching assignment was in Seattle at an affluent white school, as the district was beginning busing students from the central area for de-segregation. Once the students arrived at the school, they were placed together in a combination 1/2 classroom. It was only December and I was already their fourth teacher of the school year. And, I was the only teacher of color.

Despite these odds and less-than-ideal circumstances, I fell in love with teaching. I felt a great responsibility to protect my students and their families from the hostile and alienating environment of the school. Later, these experiences led me to be a founding Advisory Board member for Teaching Tolerance––a national magazine published by the Southern Poverty Law Center focused on diversity, equity, and justice.

I know what it’s like to feel alienated. When I came to the United States at age 6 from Santiago, Chile, I did not speak English and no one at my school spoke Spanish. This experience was very painful and resulted in me quickly losing the ability to speak Spanish. I do not believe that anyone should lose their language and connection to their culture as a result of their education. Children should be able to build on who they are and what they bring to the school. I am proud of my work with the community to create a TK–8 dual language, public Expeditionary Learning School where we respect what each child brings and we work for a more just world.

As the founding principal of Melrose Leadership Academy in 2001, I have had the honor and privilege of working with families, staff, and students who treat each other with respect. Oakland is an incredible city. The diversity, innovation, and passion for making our world a better place to live gives me hope.