WOODBURY, Minn. (WCCO) — Immersion programs are available across the country, but there’s not always enough space to go around.
Lucilla Dávila said demand was so high where she lived that she couldn’t get her children into the local program — even as she worked as a principal developing another district’s immersion program.READ MORE: Deona Knajdek, Protester Hit And Killed In Uptown, Remembered As 'Wonderful Person'
Now, years later, she’s able to leave a legacy that’s all her own. Dávila is the founder of Alma Flor Ada Spanish Immersion Learning Academy in Woodbury.
“I still have to pinch myself once and a while,” she said.
Dávila was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her parents named her Lucilla, a portmanteau of Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” fame.
“They wanted me to be identified in two cultures, so I had that gift since I was a little girl,” she said, adding that her parents always wanted her to be bilingual.
The longtime educator’s name caught the attention of Cuban-American children’s book author Alma Flor Ada. The pair first met during Dávila’s time as a principal.
“She came to visit one of our schools many years ago, and she was very surprised, and very happily surprised,” Dávila said, noting that the writer appreciated how well the culture and the language were represented in the public school building.READ MORE: Some Minnesota School Districts Struggling To Find Teachers For Summer Classes
The author also commented on the uniqueness of Dávila’s name, commenting that in Spanish the name Lucila is typically spelled with only one “l.”
“Since I was a young girl, that bilingual-ness is in me,” Dávila said. “I can’t turn it off.”
Her passion for teaching Spanish language now has a permanent home, and a name to complete a dream.
“I slept and I had a dream; our school has to be named Alma Flor Ada,” Dávila said.
The murals inside the Woodbury building are covers of the author’s books. Dávila says that she not only wanted to ground the school in Spanish culture, she also wanted to prioritize literacy.
“We have to invest in the future,” Dávila said. “I’m a champion of students, I’m a champion for students. My love is here.”
Alma Flor Ada offers Spanish immersion education for early pre-K, pre-K and kindergarten.MORE NEWS: Special Session Starts; Extension Of Governor's Emergency Powers Renewed Another 30 Days
Dávila says her ultimate goal is to offer locations for early Spanish immersion across the Twin Cities.