Flora Arca Mata was born on December 19, 1917 in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was the second youngest of six siblings and the first Filipino American woman to graduate from UCLA, where she received her teaching credential. After graduating college, she married Vidal Mata and both set off to start a career in education.
Mrs. Mata accompanied her husband to find work as teachers in the Philippines. At that time, work for minorities was difficult to find so they taught overseas. Soon after World War II, Mr. and Mrs. Mata returned to the United States where she was hired by Stockton Unified. She was placed as a Kindergarten teacher because, as stated by Mata, “they seemed to think there would be less prejudice with little ones than with older students.”
Being hired by Stockton Unified, Flora Arca Mata became the first Filipino teacher in California. She taught for thirty-two years and retired in 1978. Even after retirement, Mata continued to work as a substitute teacher and was often found volunteering in her granddaughter’s classroom, who also taught Kindergarten. She always instilled the importance of education to her family, those of whom continue to serve students in Stockton Unified, Lincoln Unified, and Delta College as administrators and teachers. Her family includes a son and daughter, and 24 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Flora Arca Mata lived a long and wonderful life and impacted many lives in the Stockton Community, most importantly, the Filipino community. She was often referred to when the Little Manila Foundation set off to establish the historical Little Manila District in downtown Stockton. She passed away on September, 11, 2013. In 2020, a new school in the district that she served under for many years, continued her legacy by naming the school after her. The Flora Arca Mata School of Stockton Unified is the third school in the nation to be named after a Filipino, the first to be named after a Filipino American Woman.