I recently got some sad news: Susana Garcia, a parent at Cesar Chavez Elementary who fought for bilingual education, died last week.

Garcia and I talked last spring about her quest to make sure her children could speak two languages.

The question of how or whether to teach children more than one language can be deeply controversial among parents and educators, tied up in issues of assimilation and culture. California voters fearful that immigrant children were not learning English well passed a law that limits bilingual education; others like Garcia argued bilingualism is valuable for all children and can actually help students unfamiliar with English learn the language better.

Garcia was also battling cancer. At the very end of our interview last year, I asked her why bilingual education was so important to her that she kept up the fight, even while she was battling for her own life:

I think with my cancer, I’m fighting even more for that. We’re not a rich family. I can’t leave money for my kids. If I’m not going to be out there for my kids — I don’t know but that’s what comes to my mind — at least I can try to help so that they can get a better education. We want them to be better than what we are. For me, that’s even stronger now.

Garcia was 44 years old. Please share your memories and thoughts about her here on the blog.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

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Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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