Note from The Fund Team: It’s week two of our Q&A series! Principal Olimpia Bahena shares what inspired her to advocate for language programs at Talcott Elementary School and why she is a principal. We hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we did. Thanks for chatting with us, Olimpia!
The Fund: You have placed a heavy emphasis on language programs at Talcott Elementary School. What has propelled you to advocate for such programs?
Olimpia Bahena: I was not born in the United States. I was born in Mexico and came here as an immigrant more than 20 years ago. I had experience as a French teacher and started my career as a bilingual teacher. I started a degree program and transferred to Talcott as a bilingual education teacher. Most students here at Talcott are minority. Forty-two percent are English Language Learners while 88 percent are low income. I proposed the implementation of dual language education. I presented this to the principal and then one year after, he supported the idea and we transitioned from a transitional bilingual program to a dual language program; now we have both. That makes Talcott a unique school.
The Fund: Your team participated in the Summer Design Program (SDP). Can you share more of your experience.
OB: My first direct experience with the Fund was one year ago when I applied to the SDP and was accepted. I think it was an awesome experience. Unfortunately, we couldn’t complete it as our team had to disband. However, working with the Fund was excellent. The Fund is very innovative…that is the word that comes to mind. The process of SDP was very helpful because when we started the project, we ended up framing this around social emotional in the upper grades. How do we address unique needs for upperclassmen? I’m very excited. The work that I did with The Fund helped me out to really define what I want for the middle grades.
The Fund: Why are you a principal?
OB: I think that at the end of the day, you’re really passionate about your students. I always feel motivated and feel like I need to accomplish something. For me, personally, I just think that I just value education—as an immigrant, I can say education is worth it. I can see all this potential and I believe there is something we can do about it. I really love my job and when you face success, it keeps you going.