Q&A with Montserrat Garibay

OELA logo, Q&A with Montserrat Garibay, headshot on blue background with yellow border
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In this interview, we delve into the inspiring journey of Montserrat Garibay, Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director for the Office of English Language Acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education. From her experiences as a bilingual pre-kindergarten teacher to her current roles in education and immigrant family advocacy, Montserrat’s personal and professional journey has shaped her perspective on empowering students and promoting equitable opportunities. Join us as we explore Montserrat’s path and the power of multilingualism.

Q: Could you start off by telling us about your current role(s)?

A: I currently serve as the Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director for the Office of English Language Acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education. Through this role, I'm excited to provide leadership on OELA's priorities, including dual language programs, early learning, family engagement, and the seal of biliteracy.

Q: Can you tell us about your experience as a bilingual pre-kindergarten teacher and how it shaped your perspective on education and immigrant families?

A: My experience as a bilingual pre-kindergarten teacher was incredibly impactful. During those 8 years, I had the opportunity to work closely with immigrant families and witness their strong desire for their children to succeed. Contrary to preconceived notions, I discovered that Spanish-speaking parents were highly interested in their children’s education. To build relationships with them, I engaged in activities like home visits, inviting them to our classroom to read in Spanish, and encouraging their participation through volunteering and joining field trips.

Q: What suggestions do you have for individuals interested in improving early childhood services?

A: My suggestion for those interested in improving early childhood services is to actively involve parents. Parents are the first teachers of our students and possess a wealth of knowledge and skills that can greatly contribute to the classroom environment. By opening our classroom doors to parents, we create opportunities for them to share their culture, talents, and experiences, making them invaluable role models for their own children. The preschool years are an ideal time to engage parents in their children’s education and establish strong partnerships that will benefit the students in the long run.

Q: How did the National Professional Development (NPD) program impact your educational career?

A: The National Professional Development Program had a profound impact on my educational career nearly a decade ago when I was a bilingual pre-K teacher in Austin, Texas. Through an NPD grant, I had the opportunity to pursue my master’s degree in Bilingual Education at the University of Texas at Austin. The NPD grants have had a significant impact on not just my life, but also on the lives of numerous educators, students, and parents across the country.

Q: Can you share a bit about your personal journey as an English learner and an undocumented immigrant to becoming an advocate for education and immigrant families?

A: Certainly. I came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City. As an English learner myself, I had the opportunity to be taught by an ESL teacher who looked like me. Her presence inspired me to embrace multilingualism, become a critical thinker, and actively engage with families. That experience fueled my passion for education and led me to become a teacher. Over the past 20 years, I have consistently leveraged my multilingual abilities to empower students, parents, paraprofessionals, and workers across various roles in my career. It is my personal journey and experiences that have driven me to advocate for the rights and opportunities of all students, including those from immigrant families.

Q: How have your multilingual abilities empowered you to make a difference in your various roles throughout your career?

A: In every job I have held, my multilingual abilities have been instrumental in engaging and empowering students, parents, paraprofessionals, and workers. Multilingualism is a superpower that has enabled me to positively impact the lives of those I work with and advocate for equitable opportunities in education and beyond. The world is our oyster, we can dream big, and we can really flourish and be part of this amazing country!

Blog tags
english learners
Early Childhood
National Professional Development Program