As a parent, longtime community education activist and the former first vice president of District 3’s Community Education Council, Teresa Arboleda has championed a variety of vital issues, from bilingual education to public school crowding.
Arboleda’s dedication to bilingual education was shaped by her own experiences.
“I didn’t speak English until age 5, even though I was born here,” she said. “We spoke Spanish at home, but I didn’t learn English until entering kindergarten and 1st grade.”
She believes that it makes sense to start teaching foreign languages in kindergarten.
“That’s when kids really learn languages,” Arboleda said. “Their minds are like sponges. They’re comfortable learning, they grab everything.”
Arboleda, who lives on West 96th Street and sent two children to District 3 public schools, believes that it’s very important for children to learn another language. She relates a joke that underscores America’s lingual vulnerabilities: “What do you a call a person who speaks three languages? Answer: Trilingual. How about a person who speaks two languages? Answer: Bilingual. And what do you call a person who speaks only one language? Answer: American.”
State Sen. Bill Perkins is one person who appreciates Arboleda’s efforts.
“America has a proud tradition as a nation of immigrants. Every group that’s come here has needed help to adjust,” he said. “I am gladdened that a conscientious and caring constituent like Teresa Arboleda has been recognized for the hard work she undertakes to make things easier for people in her community who otherwise often don’t have anyone in their corner as an advocate.”
Council Member Gale Brewer said that Arboleda has been “extremely committed” to language issues for more than 20 years.
“Teresa was and still is the go-to person in District 3 for English language learners and also on dual-language,” she said. “Thanks to Teresa, District 3 was at the forefront of bilingual education.”
Arboleda, whose term with the parent council ended this past June, had such an impact on the community that she was honored by a proclamation from Brewer’s office.
During her time on the parent council, Arboleda was also a big advocate for smaller class size.
“We developed a plan with the board of education to address overcrowding and this plan became effective this year and will continue into next year,” she said. “We believe we did the best job we could to help alleviate some of District 3’s overcrowded conditions.”
Arboleda recently retired from Ryan Health Center, on West 97th Street and Columbus Avenue, where she served as secretary to the director of special programs and outreach services. She’s especially proud of the work the center did with a health education group that focused on HIV prevention for seniors.
And she is still finding time to serve community interests.
“I’ve been a member of a task force that has been working on the development of a high school that will have creative writing as its focus,” she said. “There is a strong feeling from the community to have the school named after the late Frank McCourt, who was a teacher of creative writing in New York City public schools.”
Arboleda said she is dedicated to assuring that there is a process to select a diverse group of students for the school, including teens with special education needs and English-language learners.
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