"Students deserve a quality school in their neighborhood."

Pearl Arredondo is a Los Angeles educator who overcame the odds stacked against her, beginning in middle school. She traveled out of her district 1.5 hours by bus to get to a better school.  After college, she went back to the same middle school to teach, to the surprise of other teachers there. She focused on meeting the needs of underserved students and then went on to found the San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM), the first pilot school established in the Los Angeles Unified School District at the middle school level.

“Students deserve a quality school in their neighborhood. A school that they can be proud to say they attend and a school that the community can be proud of, as well.”

“Everyone has a story; everyone has a struggle; and everyone needs help along the way.”


Pearl Arredondo speaking at TED Talks Education
Pearl Arredondo
Speaker, TED Talks Education

Pearl Arredondo grew up in the impoverished East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. She was raised by a single-mother, a long time LAUSD office secretary, who saw firsthand the challenges facing students in public schools. To ensure that she got the best education in the district, Pearl was bussed to schools almost an hour away from home.

Although Pearl faced many challenges within the public school system, she was accepted and graduated from Pepperdine University, where she received both a Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Studies and Psychology) and a Master of Arts in Education and Instructional Leadership, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.

Pearl is a product of the Los Angeles public school system, and her experiences led her to become a firm believer that all students need a fighting chance within the existing system. She began her teaching career at San Fernando Middle School (SFMS), the middle school she attended eight years prior.

At SFMS, she began with a mission to enhance the educational opportunities for historically underserved students. To do so, she launched the school’s Multimedia Academy, which serviced 350 low-income students. After three successful years, the Multimedia Academy faculty decided it was time to make a full split and become a separate school.

In 2010, she helped lead an ambitious reform agenda, through a pilot reform model, that focused on strengthening families, improving outcomes for children, community engagement, data-driven planning, and technology development. The team founded San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM), the first pilot school established in the Los Angeles Unified School District at the middle school level.

Currently, Pearl is pursuing a Master of Science in Educational Administration and is a 2013 National Board Certified Teacher candidate. She is also part of the 2013 Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship. She serves as the Vice President of SFiAM’s Governing Council.

She is passionate about increasing student access to technology and closing the digital divide, and is a frequent speaker and panelist related to those key issues. She is featured in the short documentary film TEACHED Vol.1: “The Blame Game.” She is also a role model for young Latinas seeking to make a difference in their communities as she is a guest-speaker at Comisión Femenil’s Annual Adelante Mujer Career Conference.

Pearl is a tireless advocate for public education, technology based curriculum and reform models that prepare students to enter a global economy. Her goal is to make SFiAM a model of educational reform by preparing all students to be effective communicators in the 21st century.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendi.sargent.79 Wendi Sargent

    Your awesome Pearl and i know this firsthand because your like one of my own kids. Love, wendi

  • Gretchen Lambert-Wiltbank

    I. LOVED. THIS. TALK. Amazing story, and inspiring for me as a mental health counselor to NOT let people be victims of their circumstances.

    Just… WOW! And, thank you.

  • Brenda M

    I absolutely loved your testimony Pearl! It was truly
    inspiring and I thank you for sharing your story and challenging us as to rise above our circumstances.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neftali.valentine Neftali Valentine

    i remember seeing ms. arredondo on ted and the one thing she said and i appreciated was ” teach your children grit”. I hope i’m quoting her correctly. I couldn’t agree more. i’v always been an fan of resilience. but i love the shorter word “grit”

  • http://twitter.com/maryanns144 Maryann Gross

    This is why I have taught in an urban middle school for 8 years and will continue to do so! As a matter of fact, I am so passionate about my students and their families that I am training to be an Urban Administrator. You said it Pearl..”do not let students be a victim of their circumstances”… “fear influences opposition!” We MUST create opportunities for students with authentic learning so as to empower students…parents and community MUST be involved in a child’s school and if not, we need caring teachers and schools to provide the safe haven to nurture, guide and give students a chance to succeed.

  • kaaaaaa

    I like most things about this talk, except for that she lauds: “teachers working over above outside their contract hours.” This is a huge problem. Her school is only in its 3rd year… I’d like to see their turnover rate a few more years in. Young people can do it for a while, but eventually the work-life balance becomes too much. There should be acknowledgement and compensation for working extra hours and space for teachers to have a life outside of school, otherwise this type of school system is not sustainable and lacks the possibility of being implemented on a wider scale–there simply are not enough people willing to commit to that lifestyle, with that pay scale.

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