Irma Peña holds a master's degree in French from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She has taught French as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Romance Languages and Linguistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and was Supervisor of the Instructional Resource Center at the American University in Washington, D.C. In 1992, Ms. Peña became the sole instructor in Filipino at the University of California, Berkeley when it first offered Tagalog/Filipino as a full-time program, a position she held for 16 years until she moved to Hawai's where she now teaches 100 to 300 level Filipino courses and Fil 451: The Structure of Filipino.
Ms. Peña has worked extensively as material developer for several textbooks in Filipino and Ilokano at UH and the Hawai'i State Department of Education. While at Berkeley, she received an Instructional Research Fellowship to work on heritage language curriculum development with the Berkeley Language Center. This led to a collaborative project as Principal Investigator for the "UC Filipino Curriculum Project" (UCFCP) with a team of Filipino language educators across California, through funding from the UC Consortium of Language Learning and Teaching (UCCLLT).
In 2000, U.C. Berkeley awarded her a "Special Recognition for Extraordinary Service to the Group in Asian Studies" and in 2007 she was awarded a U.S. Congressional Certificate (George Miller, CA.) for Outstanding Service to the U.C. Berkeley Filipino student community. She is indebted to all her mentors who have supported her along the way.