New school to be named after California’s first Filipina teacher
posted by Irene Chang
An elementary school in Stockton, Calif. will be named after Flora Arca Mata, the first Filipino American teacher in the state of California.
Considered by many a pioneer, Mata gained prominence as the first Filipino American to graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles and served as the first woman of color to teach at the Stockton Unified School District. She taught there for 32 years.
Mata hails from Honolulu, but moved to Stockton at the age of two. Mata’s older sister labored as a farmhand to pay her tuition for UCLA, where she earned her teaching credentials. After graduation, she worked as a tutor and maid for the Campbell Soup family before moving to the Philippines with her husband in 1940 to teach. The two spent World War II in the Philippines, and moved back to Stockton, where Mata continued to teach at the schools she had attended as a child. Even after retiring in 1980, she continued to substitute teach well into her 80s. Mata died in 2013 at 95 years old.
UCLA’s “Bruin Women Firsts” newsletter noted that she was hired during a time when it was difficult for minorities to secure teaching positions, and her work as California’s first Filipina teacher paved the way for other Asian Americans in education.
Mata will be celebrated for her achievements through SUSD’s new K-8 school. When SUSD welcomed name suggestions for the building, Stockton-based Filipino American organization Little Manila Rising kickstarted a successful campaign to put Mata’s name on the survey. According to Little Manila Rising’s Facebook post, Mata “overwhelmingly had the most votes.”
“Thank you for being such a beautiful community and standing up for one of our own,” the post added. “Your voices matter.”
The school is currently under construction and anticipated for June 2020 completion and August 2020 occupancy.
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