1st California public school named after Fil-Am teacher Flora Arca Mata opens

HSBC Philippines
Flora Arca Mata
The Flora Arca Mata Elementary School pays tribute to the first Filipino teacher in California. Screengrab from Virtual Tour.

The first California public school named after Filipino-American teacher Flora Arca Mata is now open.

The new school that pays tribute to Mata, the first Filipino-American teacher to serve in the Stockton Unified School District (SUSD), was opened on September 22, 2020, with the participation of Mata’s grandchild, Health Care Academy Principal Aaron Mata.

The Flora Arca Mata Elementary School offers kindergarten through eighth-grade. The school can accommodate 540 students and currently has 420 enrolled students who are distance learning amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that restricts regular classes.

The new public school is located in the United States city that once boasted the largest Filipino population outside of Manila. Stockton also hosts the historic town of Little Manila, where Mata first resided with her parents who migrated from Hawaii where the young Mata was born.

Flora Arca Mata began her teaching career spanning 3 decades in Stockton Unified shortly after World War II. She received her teaching degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she also had the distinction of being a pioneer as the first Filipino-American to graduate from UCLA.

The Little Manila Rising campaign to have the Stockton school named after Mata recounts how Flora Mata had at first been discouraged from teaching in the United States even after having received a teaching degree from the University of California-Los Angeles.

Mata questioned a school dean who had said her being of a minority ethnicity will make it impossible for her to be a teacher.

‘Why is it that America would educate the minority and not give them an opportunity to use this education?’ she questioned. ‘Why is it that they need a college education to be dishwashers?’

Mata continued to serve the district as a substitute and volunteer teacher well after her retirement until she was 80 years old. She was a founding member of the Association of Filipino Americans in Education and a member of the Filipino American National Historic Society. In December 2013, Mata passed away at age 95 and is survived by her son, Eddie Mata, and daughter, Vida Mata-Longley.

“This is going to be a great learning institution,” said Henry Phillips, principal of Flora Arca Mata Elementary School. “Our board of trustees has given us an excellent start by naming this site after an exemplary educator.”

Fil-Am teachers proudly showcasing their heritage include California’s elementary school teacher Brian Batugo who is keeping Philippine folk dance alive in Stockton and Lory Cainila who received the Excellence of Education Award in Maryland.

WATCH the virtual tour here and SEND CHEERS in the comments below to the Filipino American community for the opening of the 1st California public school named after Fil-Am Flora Arca Mata.

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.