LOGAN SQUARE — As a longtime Chicago Public Schools teacher, Olga Quiroga was a champion of immigrant students and made them feel at home in the classroom, said her daughter, Genesis.
The Funston Elementary School teacher died from COVID-19 in October 2020, becoming the first CPS teacher to die from the disease. She was 58.
Genesis Quiroga and other family members and friends joined Funston administrators and students and Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Roberto Maldonado (26th) this week at the Logan Square school, 2010 N. Central Park Ave., to honor the beloved educator with a street sign: “Olga L. Quiroga Way.”
At the time of Olga Quiroga’s death, she was working as a first-grade bilingual teacher at Funston, but her CPS career stretches back. For 30 years, she taught at schools in lower-income neighborhoods, always putting her students first, her family and friends said.
“She poured her heart into teaching because she knew that this was her chance to make a big difference,” Genesis Quiroga said.
No matter where Olga Quiroga taught, she loved her students like they were her own children, according to a Sun-Times obituary.
At Thursday’s event, a former Funston student said Olga Quiroga once accompanied her to a school function in place of her mother, saying, “For the day, I’ll be your mom, and you’ll be my daughter.”
The student recalled other memories of her favorite teacher as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“She was their role model,” Genesis Quiroga said of her mother’s students. “They saw themselves in her, and that’s all she really strived for her students, Latino students in particular, to understand their background, have pride in their culture and look straight ahead to their future.
“She made you feel confident that anything was possible the moment you walked through that door.”
Lois LaGalle, who taught alongside Olga Quiroga at Inter-American Elementary Magnet School in Lakeview, said she also made a mark on her colleagues.
“It’s really hard to put in words how special Olga was,” LaGalle said. “She student taught with me, and she was one of those student teachers where I learned more from them than they did from me.
“I just want everyone to stop and appreciate the angels in our lives, and Olga was a super angel.”
Olga Quiroga and her husband, Juan, moved to the United States in the mid-1980s, leaving behind their hometown of Tamaulipas, Mexico, according to the Sun-Times.
When Olga Quiroga first arrived in Chicago, she cleaned houses for $50 a week while taking night classes at Chicago State University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in education, the Sun-Times reported. In 1991, she was hired as a reading instructor, and her CPS career took off from there.
Olga Quiroga died Oct. 1, 2020, after three weeks with COVID-19, according to the Sun-Times. Before she fell ill, she made a number of trips to Funston and attended a back-to-school event.
It’s not known where Olga Quiroga got the virus. But Ramirez-Rosa said her death highlights the need for workplace protections for teachers and other workers in the face of COVID-19.
Olga Quiroga is survived by her husband, three daughters and four grandchildren.
Genesis Quiroga said her family has lost their fiercest advocate.
“You would always see her front and center at assemblies, ceremonies — you name it. You can always count on her to shout out your name out of everybody in the crowd. She was always so supportive of every dream, so proud of every accomplishment her daughters achieved, and that’s what kept her going every single day,” she said.
“We were her best friends she’d come home to every day; and, of course, we were her first round of students.”
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