“Brown Immigrant Girl Whose Presence Can’t Be Ignored”







Teresa Marquez’s story is one of hope, inspiration and hard work. She has been with East Side Union High School District for twenty-six years. As Associate Superintendent of Educational Services at East Side Union High School District, she is the highest-ranking Latina in the District who paves the way for opportunities in the public education field for other women of color. 

Mrs. Marquez graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in mathematics. More importantly, she continues the work of making significant changes to support our most vulnerable students and their families tirelessly even now as she has been diagnosed with cancer. She is the first one to show up to work and the last one to leave. She allows room for her staff to show creativity and make policy changes. She is willing to help everyone reach their potential 

Mrs. Marquez was born in Mexico, Penjamo Guanajuato. Her mother attempted to cross the border into the US for the first time when Teresa was one year old. They were caught by the border patrol. Although Teresa has no memory of the situation, her mother shares this story often during family gatherings, expressing the overwhelming feeling of fear, disrespect shown by the officers who scolded her about her decision to bring her children to experience this. Mrs. Marquez’s mother crossed the border for the second time and ended up settling with her family in East Los Angeles. Their family shared a one-bedroom apartment with multiple family members. 

Mrs. Marquez has eight siblings–three born in Mexico and six born in the US. When she remembers her childhood home, she describes it being full of joy, food, colors, and music. Although there were multiple people living in her home it never felt crowded and she was raised to appreciate and value family more than anything. Teresa’s family learned to adapt quickly to the new country and their optimism, hard work, and humility opened many opportunities for them to overcome the barriers they faced.

These multiple barriers included housing, financial instability and English language proficiency. Mrs. Marquez received her permanent resident status when she was nine years old. As soon as the members of the family received their green cards, her father made it a custom to visit and spend every summer in Mexico, Guanajuato to not forget where they came from and to preserve their culture. It has been of critical importance to her family to keep their native Spanish language. She is very proud of her two daughters both being fluent in Spanish. It is her passion to draw inspiration from her strong family ties and the work she has been doing in the public education system.

Additionally, serving ESUHSD students and their families has continuously provided great motivation over the years. Her work in the District is strongly aligned with her personal and professional values. She describes herself as an overachiever with an open heart to continue to learn and to help all students succeed in achieving their goals. 

In her own words: “I will continue to roll my sleeves up and do the work not changing who I am, a brown immigrant girl with curly hair, girl whose presence cannot be ignored.” 

Teresa Marquez’s biggest dreams are that her two daughters can carry on her passion for education and the importance of the family. It is important for her to see that they are also proud of who they are and to contribute to the community. Teresa’s’ presence cannot be ignored when she enters any room she represents where she comes from and her values. She never shies away from the opportunity to speak her truth.

This interview and narrative were done by Natali Zepeda.


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