Equipped to Lead and Succeed

Araceli Leon '16, MA '18, EdD '23

Kindergarten Teacher, San Francisco Unified School District

by Evan Elliot, USF Magazine

Araceli Leon holding a book

Had a bad day? Need some cheering up? Ask Araceli Leon to tell you a story.

“Just this week we had a new student start class,” she says of her kindergarteners at Monroe Elementary School in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, “and near the end of the class session all my kids shouted out: ‘She’s trying her best on her first day of learning!’ ‘She is so responsible for being here!’ ‘She did all the things that Miss Leon asked her!’ So we have this conversation going, and the children create their own voices within it. And I was so proud of them. I was like, ‘Y’all shouting out my little friend and she needs that. You all are being a community for her to feel welcome in our space.’”

Araceli Leon holding her book and smiling

These children are 5 years old. On Zoom. Because of the pandemic, they have never met in person.

Leon was born and raised in the Mission District. She attended City College of San Francisco while working in an after-school program, and then she transferred to USF.

“At USF I got to study sociology and social justice. I got to minor in Latin American studies,” she says. “Then I got my master’s in teaching and multiple subject teaching credential with bilingual authorization. Our parish priest in the Mission, Fr. Tom, was so proud.”

Leon, who last year co-authored a children’s book called What Would the World Be Without Latinos?, has taught in elementary, middle, and high school, but “kinder has my heart,” she says.

Leon has taught in elementary, middle, and high school, but “kinder has my heart,” she says.

Just one more story? Please?

“On Ruby Bridges’ birthday, I did a lesson on how Ruby Bridges is a pioneer for ending school segregation,” says Leon. “And then after winter break we started learning about Rosa Parks, and a little girl spoke up and said, ‘Rosa Parks reminds me of Ruby Bridges. People didn’t want Ruby to be there because of the color of her skin.’ This is in January, and we talked about Ruby Bridges last September. And I was like, You got this, girl. I don’t even have to make the connection. You got this!”