How does social justice apply to your program?
During the program development, implementation and review, I always consider inclusion, equity, and opportunity for our students. I think about ways to increase access to high quality education for non-traditional students—students who aren’t typically on campus and need weekend, evening, and online programs. We provide customized programs on-site, so that our students can build a community and learn with colleagues who are aiming to improve teaching and learning in their communities. We also offer online programs to remove geographic barriers, especially for people in rural areas and on the peninsula. My goal is to be inclusive and provide equitable participation of all learners at Seattle University, to give them access to high quality, Seattle University education. We also increase opportunities for our students by offering courses that can be staggered towards a degree program. For example, through our endorsement academies in special education and English language learners, students can earn graduate credits at a sustainable rate, which can be applied to a master’s program.
What led you to this field?
Growing up as an immigrant, I had three strikes against me as a woman of color from a single parent: gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Education was the equalizer and I was fortunate to have many caring teachers who believed in me. During my years at UCLA, I volunteered and worked as a paraprofessional in an inner-city school. During my junior year, I was recruited to teach in a Spanish bilingual classroom after college. I graduated early so that I could teach in my own classroom. However, when I saw the disparity in special education, I returned to graduate school in the evenings and focused my master’s thesis on special education, specifically on highly capable programs. I didn’t think we were equitable in our process, including identifying English learners for the highly capable programs.
While completing graduate school, I also earned the National Board Certification, the highest teaching certification for teachers nationally. I was one of the first five in Washington state, and the youngest to achieve it. As a teacher of color, I knew I was validated as an accomplished teacher by my peers by doing this, so I’m working more actively to recruit others teachers of color to go through the National Board process. I enjoyed working with teachers so I pursued a PhD program in curriculum and instruction and explored how teacher identity intertwines with personal identity. I believe it’s important to honor our cultural and prior knowledge, and I create curricula with goals, strategies, and assessment for all students, including English learners and students with special needs. Our student population is becoming increasingly diverse while the teacher population is still largely white, so we need to design programs to meet the needs of today’s students so that teachers better understand the context of learners’ experience and the cultures that shape them.
What brought you to Seattle University?
I came to Seattle University because I believe in the mission of the university and appreciate the intentional focus on social justice. I am able to think out of the box and propose creative ways to engage non-traditional students with Seattle University.
What is unique about Professional and Continuing Education at Seattle University?
We start by acknowledging the contributions of our diverse students and families in Washington state and the U.S. and learning about them. It’s surprising how many of our teachers haven’t been to the community-based organizations in the neighborhoods of their students. We go and connect with communities and organizations, so that as educators we can share resources, like healthcare services and the YMCA. Our teachers start with increasing knowledge of their students, to see what strengths they can work to bring out in them, then set learning goals, and incorporate varied strategies and assessments.
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