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Principal's Immigrant Story and Work Inspires a Learning Community

“WETA Hometown Heroes” Features Dr. Marta Palacios in April

Washington, D.C. - Dr. Marta Palacios, principal of Bruce-Monroe Elementary School in Northwest, Washington, D.C., is the focus of a month-long WETA Hometown Heroes profile airing in April on WETA TV 26. WETA selected Palacios for the demonstrated application of her personal quest for professional development to her work with students and their parents in the District. Her profile premieres on Monday, April 7, just prior to the broadcast of Antiques Roadshow at 8 p.m. on WETA TV 26 and repeats throughout the month.


Palacios was born and raised in rural El Salvador, where she overcame difficult obstacles to obtaining an education and earned her teaching credentials. Yet the Salvadoran political situation in the 1970s forced her to flee to the United States, where her credentials were not recognized. Speaking no English, Palacios worked in New York City as a maid and cleaning woman, eventually earning her GED after moving to Washington, D.C. She then began an eight-year journey towards a bachelor's degree in education; when that was earned, she became a teacher and then pursued and attained her masters and a doctorate. In 1999, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) asked her to become the assistant principal at Bruce-Monroe. Two years later, a committee of parents, teachers and community members unanimously chose Palacios as the principal, making her the first Salvadoran doctorate to serve as principal in the District.


Over the years, Palacios encountered many negative attitudes towards herself as both an immigrant parent of children in the public school system and as an immigrant educator, sensibilities which today she combats in her work. She strives to empower parents - both immigrant parents new to the country and those whose families have lived in the District for generations - to make an impact on the school. Palacios invites parents at Bruce-Monroe to make decisions with her, encourages them to visit classrooms to support and monitor teaching and learning, and supports parents' efforts to voice concerns at school board hearings and city council meetings. She helped create Parents and Friends of Bruce-Monroe, an organization involving nearly 100 families focused on issues of teaching, learning, climate and culture in the school. She has also instituted an innovative dual language program, recognized by DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee as highly successful.


Palacios is humble about her accomplishments, keeping the focus on the students, parents and teachers she works with. "In many low-income schools, parents are seen as deficits," she explains. "We have been building relationships and changing those perceptions so parents are no longer seen as a threat or hindrance, but as assets and important sources of support." One sixth grader from Bruce-Monroe remarked of Palacios, "She encourages me to keep writing and do my best on my work. She always tells me to try."


Along with working closely with students at Bruce-Monroe, Palacios participates in Tellin' Stories, a program of Teaching for Change, which is an organization that aims to provide teachers and parents with the tools to transform schools into centers of justice where students learn to read, write and change the world. Programs at Teaching for Change include publications, family and schools projects, professional development initiatives, and workshops and courses. The Tellin' Stories program works with parents to create and implement action plans that affect the academic achievement and environment of neighborhood schools through relationship building, weekly meetings, workshops, trainings and grassroots organizing. For more information about Tellin' Stories and Teaching for Change, visit


Celebrating its tenth year, WETA Hometown Heroes is an Emmy-Award winning multimedia project that heralds individuals who improve their communities and encourages others to volunteer service. To be involved and to submit nominations, visit the website at where you will find volunteer opportunities at area organizations, archived WETA Hometown Heroes features, and forms to nominate a hero. Palacios' WETA Hometown Heroes profile will also be featured on the WETA media player, WETA Watch Online at Featuring more than one hundred videos, WETA Watch Online includes the latest videos from WETA local productions such as The WETA Guide, WETA All Access and WETA Extras.


WETA Hometown Heroes is made possible through the generous support of Park Foundation, Inc.; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.


WETA supports educational and culturally enriching opportunities for local youth through programming and outreach workshops such as Reading Rockets and Ready To Learn. To find out more about these projects, visit WETA's community website at


WETA TV 26 and Classical WETA 90.9 FM are public broadcasting stations serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with educational, cultural, news and public affairs programming and related services, including four digital channels. WETA is committed to producing programs that highlight the history and people of the Greater Washington area. WETA produces WETA All Access, The WETA Guide, WETA Around Town, WETA Neighborhoods and WETA Extras, spotlighting local people, places and events. WETA's headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. For more information on WETA and its services, visit Sharon Percy Rockefeller is the president and CEO of WETA.


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