Breaking Barriers – A Lifetime in Service to Education
Victoria D. de Sanchez was a pioneering Hispanic educator in both North and Latin America in the mid-twentieth century, impacting countless teachers and millions of schoolchildren. After beginning a teaching career in the U.S. in the 1930s, she led a decades-long and distinguished career as a U.S. Foreign Service Education Specialist in Central America. She later became the highest ranking woman in the Alliance for Progress (the U.S. Foreign Aid Program in Latin America) and also influenced the lives of millions of students in six countries.
A colleague wrote
“…In all of these countries, this dedicated woman worked countless hours….to make schooling possible for all the people.”
Responsible for parenting a generation of teachers and administrators in the Americas, Victoria D. de Sanchez truly could be called the Eleanor Roosevelt of education in Latin America. She was honored with the highest non-citizen awards in two Central American countries. She guided the production of 10 million textbooks in critical subject areas.
Never before had six sovereign nations agreed to come together and jointly develop textbook content in sensitive subject areas such as social studies and history for all the elementary school children in their respective countries.
A teacher in New Mexico
- Born in 1906 Galisteo, New Mexico
- Began teaching in New Mexico school systems at 16
- Widowed at 23, with a young son
- Earned a bachelor’s (Highlands University at Las Vegas, New Mexico) 1939
- Earned Master’s in Education in 1944
- Served as a principal in several schools
- Taught at Highlands University (one of the first two native New Mexican Hispanics)
A trainer of teachers in Latin America
- Traveled to Guatemala after WWII to establish training for rural teachers
- Awarded Guatemala’s highest medal for service to the country by a non-citizen
A college professor and superintendent of rural schools in New Mexico
- Returned to the U.S. in 1947 to teach in public schools and Highland University
- 1951 Served as County Superintendent of rural schools in San Miguel, NM
A U.S. Foreign Service Officer in Latin America
- 1953 Accepted position with U.S. Foreign Service as an Education Specialist in Nicaragua
- 1958 Named Technical Director of Rural Education in Nicaragua
- 1959 Awarded Nicaragua’s highest medal for service to the country for a non-citizen
- 1960’s Directed rural education programs to train teachers in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Colombia
- 1964 Appointed Director of the Central American Regional Textbook Program
- Developed textbooks and teacher training in 5 Central American countries and Panama
- Guided the production of 10 million textbooks for a consortium of 6 countries.
- Became the highest ranking woman in the Alliance for Progress, the U.S. Foreign Aid Program in Latin America
A global thinker – Education innovator, volunteer, consultant and writer
- Retired from the Foreign Service, become a Peace Corps Training Officer in U.S.
- Taught at Highlands University
- Became involved with new innovative educational programs:
Reading is Fundamental and Head Start.
- Consulted for a firm established by her son, Leveo V. Sanchez, including a project providing curriculum program guidance in Paraguay
- Retired in Virginia to volunteer work, writing, and travel
- Published her memoir, In the Footsteps of an Educator
- Victoria D. de Sanchez Endowed Scholarship at Highlands University for Hispanic students established in 1986 by Leveo V. Sanchez
- Leveo V. Sanchez Family Endowed Scholarship for Native American students was established in 1988.
- 2008 Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Hispanic Teacher of the Year Award endowed by Marymount University