CS 211 celebrates 50 years of bilingual education

(l-r) Teacher Steven Garay, former teacher and principal Miguel Silen, and former teacher and current Icahn 2 Charter School principal Brenda Carrasquillo-Silen at the 50th anniversary celebration at Maestros.
Photo courtesy of Betty Soto

A Bronx school is celebrating half a century of teaching and providing bilingual education in the borough.

Community School 211 The Bilingual School is recognizing its mid-century mark as an educational institution, which culminated with a 50-year anniversary celebration earlier this month.

At the time of its inception in 1969, C.S. 211 was one of New York’s first bilingual schools, teaching curriculums in both English and Spanish.

The school operated from a building which had previously housed a mattress manufacturer on East 179th Street and Lafontaine Avenue. The school moved to its current location at 1919 Prospect Avenue in the mid-1990s.

“My time at C.S. 211 was an amazing, life-changing experience,” said Gladys Rivera, a former teacher who taught at C.S. 211 for 24 years and was one of the school’s original teachers when it first opened. “Even after the teachers left the school, we would all keep in touch and reconnect for all of the schools’ anniversaries. It’s always been a family-like connection.”

Gladys vividly remembers when she was first recruited to be a C.S. 211 teacher in the spring of 1969.

She was in her senior year of college at the University of Puerto Rico when she was recruited by C.S. 211 founder Dr. Carmen Rivera, who was also the first principal in the school’s history.

Her teacher training program took place that summer before her teaching career began at the school which officially opened its doors in October 1969.

Gladys was one of 34 teachers who were selected to teach at C.S. 211, from a pool of over 150 candidates.

Gladys described Carmen as “a woman who was ahead of her time” and said that she owed her educational experience to Dr. Rivera.

She also said that she was proud of the fact that many of her former students are still fluent in both English and Spanish to this day.

“It was a privilege to work at such a wonderful school with great teachers and amazing generations of students,” said Betty Soto, C.S. 211’s former principal of 15 years, the longest tenured principal in the school’s history.

Nearly 600 students, grades Pre-K through eighth grade, currently attend C.S. 211.

Earlier this month, CS. 211 held their 50-year anniversary celebration at Maestros, which was attended by current and formers students, teachers and staff.

The event included an award presentation to Catherine and Robert Brawer, two of the schools’ benefactors who have been instrumental in the school’s success throughout its history.

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