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Conversations on Culture: Q&A with César Chávez Dual Spanish Immersion School Principal Dr. Anna Santiago Addis

Conversations on Culture: Q&A with César Chávez Dual Spanish Immersion School Principal Dr. Anna Santiago Addis

  • Team PGCPS |
  • September 17, 2018

Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off our Conversations on Culture series. César Chávez Dual Spanish Immersion School Principal Dr. Anna Santiago Addis has a passion for helping students maximize their potential. Learn what brought the West Texas native to PGCPS and how she seeks to empower students and staff through education, social justice and leadership.

Tell us about your background and heritage.

I was born and raised in the United States—as were my parents and grandparents. I learned Spanish from my grandmother at a time when children weren’t allowed to speak Spanish in school. My parents put greater emphasis on my learning English. It’s nice that things have changed, because culture is tied to language and it’s important for language to be maintained and valued.

What brought you from New Mexico to PGCPS?

I’d recently completed my Ph.D. in education administration and social justice leadership at New Mexico University and was attending an industry convention. There were staff from PGCPS attending one of the sessions on supporting Latino students on a college track. One of the PGCPS staff said, “You’re probably wondering what African American educators are doing in a session about Latino education? We’re here to learn more about how to educate Latino children.” It was at that moment that I connected with PGCPS. I was intrigued by their goal of better serving Latino children and all children who may not have the opportunity and support they need. I was in a place where I could try something different. I’m a learner. Before I knew it, here I was on East Coast.

What ideas and values stick with you today?

I’m a first-generation high school and college graduate. My mom and dad didn’t finish school; they received sixth and eighth grade educations, respectively. Because of this, they always instilled that I would go to college. I knew I needed to go, but like many of our students, I was unsure of how to get there. Part of me going into education was because I know from experience that education is the path. A lot of my work is to show children of color that anything is possible. My mom was a social justice warrior. She fought for those who didn’t have a voice—which also showed me you don’t have to have a degree to have a voice. My personal symbol of accomplishment is to prove that anything is possible. It’s about doing your best and taking care of others, and that’s what my mom taught me.”

Why is dual language education important?

We’re living in a global community. Not only is it beneficial to your brain to have an additional language, but in our global economy it will benefit students in their careers. We are very focused on academic language. Students are learning academic language that will support them in future academic programs, for example, communicating math for engineering. One misconception about our school is that people thinks it’s private or charter. It is public and open to anyone who applies through the lottery! We serve students with special needs. With staff from Spain, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin American countries, we are very diverse.

What does success look like for you at César Chávez?

We have students and parents who come from all over the County, so building a real sense of community here has been my goal. I’m working toward this by creating opportunities for families to connect. We’re trying to increase involvement from Spanish parents by having them volunteer to read stories to English students and practice Spanish with them. We’re doing the same with bringing in English-speaking parents to work with Spanish-speaking kids. The goal is for these parents to meet and break down boundaries of language and economics so that we have one community working together to benefit our children.