Cristina Syquia, a newly-appointed SCHS Special Education teacher, is popular at potlucks.
Her hobbies-turned-skills of cooking and baking have rewarded her compliments from colleagues at past potlucks, and she hopes for the same in the future. Syquia strives to introduce parts of her culture through food: noodles, egg-rolls and adobo are some of the courses she showcases.
“Every time we have potlucks and everything, I get to make my Filipino dishes,” Syquia said. “And the staff… they just love it.”
Born and raised in the Philippines, Syquia found a passion in cuisine and also in her career: Special Education. While growing up, she observed deficits in the government’s educational districts.
“I noticed that in my country, the Philippines, there was a lack of education service, especially the Special Ed population,” Syquia said. “There’s lack of funding, and the only way you can have your child receive services is to pay for it.”
Syquia’s friend introduced her to the world of Special Education; she explained what the job looked like and how much she enjoyed it.
“She was a Special Ed teacher, and she talked about what she was doing,” Syquia said. “It kind of got me interested and that motivated me, inspired me to pursue Special Ed.”
After taking classes and teaching in the Philippines for several years, Syquia decided to move to the United States. She attended San Jose State University, earning a master’s degree in Special Education, and then worked at the Santa Clara County Office of Education from 2011 to 2018. Before SCHS, Syquia taught at Peterson Middle School. The biggest difference, she said, between middle and high school students is self-direction.
“There’s some pros and cons of working with older kids because you have more independence when you’re teaching this population,” Syquia said. “But then, when they’re younger, they’re cuter – it’s fun to work with those growing kids. So for me, it’s a balance.”
According to Syquia, though the process of teaching is different, the result is not, at least in terms of emotional edification.
“It doesn’t matter which age group it is,” Syquia said. “It’s always rewarding because you learn from each student.”
Syquia’s nurturing demeanor not only comes from her educational path, but also from her parental one. As a single mom, she has raised two daughters who are now 22 and 26 years old.
“It can be challenging, but thank God that my kids are all grown up,” she said. “They’re independent – the eldest is working. She works for Google. I’m so proud of her.”
Apart from teaching, Syquia enjoys traveling with her daughters and has toured places such as Europe, Japan, Singapore and Thailand. She values the expedition a new environment allows her, as well as the opportunities for discovery.
“You learn a lot, from actually experiencing the culture – being out there and visiting the place, meeting the people, the food, everything,” Syquia said. “It’s a learning adventure for me all the time.”
Syquia’s interest in learning from others is shared in both her personal life and her professional one, where she faces a new community to familiarize herself with. So far, her first year on campus has been positive, and her interactions with other staff have proven helpful and friendly.
“I’m just in awe with the other teachers and their dedication,” Syquia said. “I’m inspired also by the students, seeing their growth and progress. That kind of helps me and motivates me to continue and pursue this career, to continue to teach, and to help whatever in every way I can.”