In Memoriam

Celebrating the Life of Dr. Isabel Cid Sirgado

Dr. Isabel Cid Sirgado


“Her legacy lives on in each one of the graduates of (the Fellowship) program and in turn, in all of the lives that those graduates later touched because of her training. For those Fellows who survived the program, the skills and passion that were instilled in them by Dr. Sirgado carried them successfully into their careers. How do you say, ‘thank you’ when ‘thank you’ is not enough? We are who we are today because of you, Isabel!”

Dr. Dolores Fernández, Graduate of the Fellowship Program at Hofstra University.

Isabel Cid Sirgado came to the U.S. as part of the Cuban diaspora in the early 60s. Her distinguished family–her mother was a college professor and her father a lawyer and playwright– were forced to leave and remake themselves in the USA. Her parents became university professors while Isabel pursued a Master’s degree at St. John’s University and her Ph.D. at New York University.

Dr. Sirgado began her career as an instructor in the Department of Modern Languages at Hofstra University. A few years later, she became a Professor and then Director of the Bilingual Education Program and Coordinator of the Bilingual Doctoral Program. The Bilingual Education Act was passed in 1967 and the U.S. Department of Education created the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs (OBEMLA). In recognition of her leadership as a teacher educator and her clear vision of bilingual education rooted in an affirmation of language and culture for authentic education, OBEMLA invited Dr. Sirgado to participate in the development of guidelines for bilingual undergraduate and graduate bilingual programs at institutions of higher education (IHEs). In alignment with these guidelines, Dr. Sirgado revised Hofstra’s bilingual education program and was instrumental in obtaining a $3 million federal grant to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in bilingual teaching, administration, and supervision to educators who would staff bilingual education programs in New York City and New York State schools.

Even though the Bilingual Education Act had made bilingual methodology an option to meet the needs of English Language Learners, the willingness to provide bilingual education gradually decreased over the years. In New York State, compliance with CR Part 154 became widely ignored and reduction of resources was experienced at the beginning of the 21 century. Deeply concerned about these changes, Dr. Sirgado created her own evaluation methods to hold bilingual education to high standards. She researched, designed, piloted, implemented and validated a Quality Review Protocol intended to ensure that English Language Learners received the instructional and support services they had a right to. The protocol was implemented in 34 NYC Department of Education (NYC DOE) schools in 2003-2006, and in 14 NYS districts from 2005-2007. From 2008-2014, Dr. Sirgado designed and piloted a self-assessment version of the Quality Review, The Program Evaluation Toolkit (PET). At the time of her passing, she was in the process of adapting the Quality Review Protocol for the NYC DOE. Dr. Sirgado was also an active Spanish literature professor at Baruch College where she had served as chairperson of the Modern Languages Department. In addition, she had acted as the college’s Affirmative Action Officer for one year. As such, she advocated for the rights of Baruch’s students, faculty and personnel from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Dr. Sirgado was a force to be reckoned with: tough, savvy, analytical, and relentless. She was an inveterate organizer and motivator who did not hesitate to offer “her wise counsel and political acumen to the civil rights struggles for equal educational opportunities.” (Regent Luis O. Reyes). She motivated and guided many of her students to excel as bilingual educators and she often fought shoulder to shoulder with legislators, colleagues and leaders against proponents of practices and policies assailing bilingual education. In recognition of her tenacious leadership, unconditional commitment to NYSABE’s mission, strategically focused advocacy work, and guidance to emergent leaders in bilingual education, NYSABE presented Dr. Isabel Cid Sirgado with the 2011 Antonia Pantoja Advocacy Award.

Dr. Sirgado is survived by her loving children, Michael A. Sirgado and Gloria Cid-Stitt and two grandchildren, Michael and Isabel Stitt. Isabel’s love and pride for her heritage was passed on to her family members and her legacy will continue through them and her extended family of colleagues, students, and friends in education.

“I loved her like a sister…She lives in our hearts.” Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Chancellor, Board of Regents

“My mother was an extraordinary woman, my hero, my mentor and best friend.” Gloria Cid-Stitt

“Thanks for the Memory,” “You are Always in my Heart,” “Estás en Mi Corazón.” Carmen Dinos