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Alumni: The Covarrubias Family

Ismael and Maria Covarrubias with their five children (clockwise from left):
Danny, Jorge, Hector, Julie and Cindy

The Covarrubias family has deep roots in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), representing a multi-generational commitment to education and community service. From Maria Del Rosario Covarrubias, who dedicated three decades to teaching in the district, to her five children—Cinthya (Cindy), Jorge, Daniel, Hector, and Julie— who all attended Madison’s public schools, their story is one of enduring dedication and impactful contribution. Today, the legacy Maria built is carried forward by her children, many of whom have chosen careers within MMSD, continuing to nurture and support the academic and personal growth of students across the district.

From Guadalajara to Madison

Maria’s journey to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, was marked by determination and resilience. At a young age, she had to leave school to care for her younger siblings, but this did not diminish her love for learning. When she, her husband Ismael, and their infant daughter Cindy risked their lives to cross the border into the U.S., they sought a brighter future. Eventually, they settled in Madison, where Maria initially struggled to find community as a Spanish speaker.


This changed when Kathy Price, an ESL teacher in the district, encouraged Maria to take English classes at Madison College, reigniting her passion for education. Maria’s involvement in the school community grew rapidly; she became an educational assistant at Muir Elementary, then a bilingual resource specialist, supporting English language learners like her own children. Maria continued her education, earning her GED, a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison, and a master’s degree from Edgewood College.

Maria’s distinguished career in MMSD saw her teaching at several schools, including Chavez, Muir, Thoreau, Huegel, Sennett, Ezekiel Gillespie, and La Follette High School. Her dedication to her students and her unwavering belief in their potential earned her the “Distinguished Service Award.” Maria’s influence extended beyond the classroom as she championed Spanish-speaking students and families, fostering cultural understanding and building strong relationships within the school community.

Growing Up in Madison

During their K-12 educational years, all five Covarrubias children experienced firsthand the district’s dedication to fostering academic and personal growth. They attended John Muir Elementary, Ezekiel Gillespie Middle (formerly Jefferson), Toki Middle (formerly Orchard Ridge), and Memorial High School.

Growing up in Madison during the early 80s, the Covarrubias family was one of the few Spanish-speaking families in the area. On their eldest child Cindy’s first day of kindergarten, they met Kathy Price, her ESL teacher and the only person in the building who spoke Spanish. Kathy quickly became a crucial figure for the family, providing a safe haven and helping them navigate a system that was not designed for non-mainstream families. Kathy’s mentorship and friendship with Maria had a profound impact, making her one of the family’s closest friends and their Godmother.

Kathy Price with Cindy and Jorge at John Muir Elementary.

The Covarrubias family learned many lessons from their experiences in MMSD, from what not to do to examples of the positive impact sharing resources and even the smallest acts of kindness can have on a student’s educational journey. They encountered many people who acknowledged their potential and helped them navigate a system that was not created for them. They benefited from resources like access to medical and dental care, food pantries, navigating the immigration system, WIC, English language classes, finding jobs, applying for scholarships and other programs, and finally learning how to get through the gauntlet of college applications and financial aid.

Continuing the Legacy

The challenges and support the Covarrubias family faced taught them invaluable lessons in resilience, kindness, and the importance of education. Maria’s passion for learning and belief in education left a lasting impact on her children, who now honor her legacy by contributing to MMSD and the broader Madison community, each bringing their unique strengths and perspectives to their roles.

Siblings from left to right: Julie, Hector, Danny, Jorge, Cindy

Cindy Díaz, the eldest, serves as a Community Schools Resource Coordinator at Leopold Elementary School. In this role, Cindy creates welcoming and supportive spaces for families, ensuring they feel valued and connected to the school community. Her work includes organizing the Latinx/Hispanic heritage community celebration and other community events, facilitating parent workshops, and coordinating resources to support students, their families and staff. Cindy’s efforts help bridge the gap between home and school, fostering a sense of belonging and engagement among the diverse student body. With a career in MMSD since 2002, starting out as a Bilingual Resource Specialist, then Bilingual Resource Teacher and now in her current role, Cindy is most proud of her collective work, always focused on giving back to her community. Being a cultural broker and resource navigator has been of utmost importance to her in all of her roles. This work is personal to Cindy, as it is her way of paying it forward and serving the community to the best of her ability.

Jorge Covarrubias, MMSD’s Senior Executive Director of Professional Leadership, focuses on centering student experience, voice, and outcomes through intentional professional learning of leaders and staff. His passion for education is fueled by his mom’s passion for education and her yearning for learning as well as being bicultural. Jorge’s work includes designing and leading professional learning for leaders, supporting MMSD’s professional growth model, and MMSD’s mentoring and induction program. At his core, he values equity, anti-racism, and social justice and strives to create a school district that his mom would be proud to be a part of. One where she would feel worthy of not just sending her children but her grandchildren as well.

Hector Covarrubias is a dedicated police officer whose path was shaped by influential educators like Ms. Kathy Price and Ms. Kara Glasser. Although initially not inclined towards education, Hector pursued an Associate degree in criminal justice from Madison College to make his parents proud. He served as a police officer in the Village of Maple Bluff from 2008 to 2014 while earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Upper Iowa University. In 2014, Hector transferred to the City of Stoughton Police Department, where he served until the fall of 2023. Recently, he joined the Madison Police Department, aligning his career with his family’s legacy of serving the Madison community. Hector collaborates with the Madison School District and the Madison Public Schools Foundation to strengthen the partnership between police and schools, aiming to better support the community that helped raise him.

Julie Rice, a fourth-grade teacher at Leopold Elementary School, is a recognized Outstanding Educator who is deeply involved in her school and the broader Madison community. After college, Julie moved out of state. While teaching in other districts she aspired to come home and continue to make a difference in the Madison area. Fortunately, she moved back and continued right where she left off.  Julie’s connection to her students and her dedication to making the curriculum engaging and accessible reflect the values her mother instilled in her. She believes in creating a classroom environment where every student feels valued and excited to learn, mirroring the inclusive and nurturing approach her mother exemplified. Julie’s initiatives include the Walking School Bus program to reduce chronic absenteeism, volunteering for the mobile food pantry, and mentoring new teachers through the University of Wisconsin School of Education.

Daniel Covarrubias, a beloved brother who passed away on November 30, 2021, was a passionate music and art enthusiast. He believed in the importance of supporting others and was the first in line when someone needed help. True to character, most of his jobs were in the service industry or human resources. He was a natural at making people feel seen, and welcome and always had a smile to share. Often, Danny could be found volunteering at the schools his family worked at, where he was well-known and loved by the staff. He enjoyed spending time with family and friends and swimming in the lakes and rivers. Danny’s legacy of kindness and passion for the arts continues to inspire all who knew him. He is dearly missed.

A Lasting Impact

The Covarrubias family’s influence on MMSD and the Madison community extends beyond the individual contributions of Cindy, Jorge, Daniel, Hector, and Julie. Their commitment to education and community involvement mirrors the same dedication that Maria embodied throughout her career. The family’s efforts have created a ripple effect, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment within the district.

Maria’s legacy lives on through the María del Rosario Covarrubias Educational Opportunity Fund, a scholarship created to assist Latinx adults with families who wish to pursue higher education and give back to their communities. This scholarship reflects the family’s belief in the transformative power of education and their desire to continue making a positive impact on future generations.

As proud alumni of Madison’s public schools, the Covarrubias family continues to inspire and shape the future of education in Madison, carrying forward a legacy that will endure for generations to come.

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