"I’m a down to earth person. I’m down there with the kids."

Carlos Arroyo MA '96


Carlos Arroyo built his philosophies on Multicultural Education by teaching all over the map.

Carlos Arroyo built a diverse view of education by teaching all over the map. The bilingual elementary teacher has set up classrooms all over, from Florida to his native Chicago to housing projects in Puerto Rico. Today, he runs a bilingual classroom in Rockford, Ill., teaching third graders in both English and Spanish. Here are four things to know about the Multicultural Education alum.

1. Teaching runs in the family

It’s no surprise Arroyo took to teaching—he grew up in a family of educators. His mother, brother and sister-in-law all found work as teachers. “I did some volunteer work with my mom,” he remembers. “After I got out of school, I’d go and help her with the kids.”

As a kid himself, Arroyo attended Boys Club of Chicago, and as a teenager he helped run the summer programs. With all that classroom experience before he even graduated high school, education was a natural choice.

2. He took an unexpected path

After high school, Arroyo looked into some local colleges—and then he made an adventurous decision. “I went to Puerto Rico,” he says.

He enrolled at World University, where he majored in elementary education with a minor in early childhood bilingual education. He earned scholarships by teaching English in Llorens Torres housing projects through a title VII program.

He taught classes of 30 or more students, many of whom came from single-parent homes. “The teacher would be teaching in Spanish and I’d be helping with the class,” he says. “Then I’d have an opportunity to teach skills in English for a half an hour. The same class she taught [in Spanish], I taught in English.”

That experience jumpstarted his lifelong journey in bilingual education. “This prepared me for everything else I could ever encounter in my teaching career,” he says.

3. He wasn’t alone on his journey

Arroyo met his wife Mayra Perez-Arroyo in Puerto Rico, where they both worked as educators. When they migrated to Chicago, they heard about Columbia College Chicago’s multicultural education program and enrolled together. “It was a lot of fun being able to attend grad school at the same time with my wife,” he says. “Her company made the years go by much faster.”

At Columbia, Arroyo threw himself into classes that visited different parts of Chicago, building a rounded view of education in the process.

After graduating, he put his degree to use by teaching in Florida. There, his diverse classroom included students from Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba.

“Multicultural education is important because you get an in-depth study of different cultures—their customs and beliefs,” says Arroyo. Today, he finds his background incredibly useful in connecting with students and families in his Rockville classroom.

4. He’s the “cool teacher”

From math to English to social studies, Arroyo teaches his 23 students in a blend of languages. Each day, he conducts lessons in a mix of about 70% Spanish and 30% English. At Julia Lathrop Elementary School, Arroyo has perfected the art of connecting with his third-grade students. He listens. He pays attention. He talks like them—their slang and jokes—and puts them at ease.

“I’m not the type of teacher who thinks to highly of himself,” he says. “I’m a down to earth person. I’m down there with the kids.”

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