Education leader to deliver Commencement address
Valeria Silva, superintendent of St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS), will deliver the winter Commencement address at St. Catherine University on December 20.
Silva has earned national attention for her work and leadership with St. Paul's English-language learners, who make up 45 percent of the district’s students. These students are fluent in languages as diverse as Amharic, Spanish, Somali, Hmong and Karen.
Silva, who hails from Santiago, Chile, and is a second-language learner herself, was among the first teachers at the first full Spanish immersion program in Minnesota. Adams Spanish Immersion School, a K–6 elementary school, opened in 1986. Silva later became the principal.
Silva has held several other leadership positions with SPPS in addition to that — and prior to her appointment as superintendent of Minnesota’s second-largest school district in December 2009. She was chief academic officer and director of English Language Learner (ELL) Programs, assistant principal at Dayton’s Bluff Elementary and the coordinator of Spanish Immersion Program/Curriculum.
She also worked with the Minnesota Department of Education as a standards and accommodation specialist for ELL and special education to develop the first state standards in those areas. Today, she continues that dedication as a presenter and facilitator for professional development of ELL Programs, Culture and Bilingual Education for SPPS and charter schools.
Silva, holds bachelor’s degrees from St. Cloud State University and Pontificia University of Chile, as well as Masters of Arts and education specialist degrees from the University of Minnesota.
In 2009, she completed the prestigious Broad Superintendent's Academy, an intense 10-month executive management training program designed to groom leaders for the nation's urban school districts.
Mpls St Paul Magazine recognized Silva as “Educator-in-Chief” for “living the American Dream, one school day at a time” in October of 2010. A month later, Chilean newspaper El Mercurio named her among the top 100 Female Leaders for 2010. The Council of Great City Schools gave her the Curriculum and Leadership Award and the University Council of Education Administration presented her the 2007 Excellence in Education Leadership award.
Beyond St. Paul
Silva is a member of the National Education Standards Review Committee and the Executive Committee for the Council of Great City Schools. She has been invited to inform educational best practices in Chile, Cuba, Panama and schools worldwide.
In 2004, she accompanied a delegation to Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp in Thailand to lay the groundwork for welcoming 1,700 new Hmong students into SPPS.
Silva serves on the board of numerous organizations, including the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, STARBASE Minnesota, State ESL Programs, Minnesota Children’s Museum, International Institute of Minnesota, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation.
In 2009, she served on the Council of Great City Schools Research Advisory Committee for the publication “Succeeding With English Language Learners: Lessons Learned from the Great City Schools.”