Community Spotlight: Teacher union President overcomes adversity to serve community


J. Reese

ACE President Cristina Puraci serves the Colton community by advocating for its teachers.

Alexander Cespedes, Pepper Bough Staff Writer

Cristina Puraci is the President of the local teacher’s union, the Association of Colton Educators (ACE). It is a job with tremendous responsibility and influence, and getting to this point in her career was not the easiest road.

Ms. Puraci is not originally from the U.S. She is Romanian.

She grew up under the control of Communist Russia. Her family had little, and had to wake up early every morning to get into long lines just to get their daily rations of bread. Since she was so young, and this was just how life was, Cristina enjoyed her childhood.

Things changed in 1986, when she became a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Chernobyl was a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine that overheated due to government mismanagement.

During that time, the Communist government actively spread misinformation about the disaster to keep its citizens in the dark. They said Chernobyl would not affect her or her fellow countrymen at all, and to go about life normally.

However, many Romanians—Cristina included—suffered health issues. The toll of the Chernobyl disaster is hard to determine because the Russian government worked hard to cover it up.

Once Cristina was 18, she immigrated to America. She was engaged to be married, and wanted to start a new life. She left behind her family, including her parents, five sisters, three brothers, and niece.

It was hard for her to leave her small town and family, but she made her choice.

Once she moved here. She did not know the language since she spoke Romanian.

As Cristina arrived at the LAX airport, she was culture shocked. After stepping off the plane and into the terminal, she found no one waiting for her. Confused, unable to speak English, and worried, she waited for two hours.

Then a stranger approached her, speaking Romanian. He was her fiance’s uncle, followed by 50 family members coming from every direction with flowers. It turned out her terminal arrival had changed because she had had a flight change. It was an unforgettable moment.

Getting used to life in the U.S. was easy for Cristina. She missed her family dearly, but the ability for her to purchase anything without having rations, having the freedoms of speech and religion, and feeling safe after dark solidified her love for America and made her transition a lot easier.

Eventually, Cristina went to Cal State San Bernardino and received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and her teaching credential. She earned her Masters in Education at National University.

She started working as an elementary teacher in Colton in 2004, and served at multiple sites working with kindergarten and first grade students for 11 years.

During Cristina’s second year teaching in 2006, she was approached by a colleague who saw that she was already involved at the county level working with the union, and he encouraged her to become an ACE site representative.

In May 2019, 13 years later, she was elected President. Her experience has created a desire to serve others and make sure they always have someone supporting and fighting for them.

As ACE President, Cristina facilitates all of the meetings, including Representative Council and Executive Board. She is also the spokesperson for ACE in the Colton, Bloomington, and Grand Terrace communities.

ACE represents all certificated staff such as teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, athletic directors, curriculum program specialists, and others employed by Colton Joint Unified School District.

They represent the working conditions of the membership, which includes wages, working hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. ACE also supports the well-being of its members, hosting membership gatherings, and offering resources for mental health.

“I’m a problem solver,” Cristina says about her love for the job. “Just seeing that sometimes when people who don’t reach out for help finally do that, they find me there to help them.”