Educator-preparation programs awarded new national accreditation

With the second-largest educator preparation program in the California State University system, Fresno State prepares three out of every four teachers in the San Joaquin Valley.

And now, Fresno State is the first in the California State University system to earn recognition from a new national accrediting body, the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation.

The Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation awarded full, seven-year accreditation to nine education-related programs at Fresno State — seven within the Kremen School of Education and Human Development , one in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology and one in the College of Health and Human Services.

Founded in 2017, the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation is a membership association and quality assurance agency that provides accreditation services and formative support to all types of educator preparation providers.

“Fresno State began as a teacher preparation institution and has grown into the world-class University it is today,” said Dr. Randy Yerrick, dean of the Kremen School. “We are grateful to the innumerable community partners we collaborate with who place our emerging professionals in their schools and workplaces throughout their preparation experiences. We could not accomplish such a feat alone.”

Previously, the Kremen School was awarded national accreditation under the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education standards under the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation  in 2014.

This new national accreditation was awarded to the Kremen School’s multiple subject, single subject and education specialist teacher education programs; bilingual authorization program; school counseling program; reading and literacy specialist program; and preliminary administrative services program. Fresno State’s agriculture specialist program and school nurse services program were also accredited.

Collectively, each program engaged in a process of selecting and examining data to determine where they were in meeting each of the accreditation standards. After looking at the results of the analysis, the programs took steps to continue to build on the work they were already doing to prepare educators to serve the region.

“After AAQEP was established, Fresno State realized it had a choice in its national accrediting body. We chose AAQEP because of its focus on continuous improvement and the opportunity to select our own measures to evaluate the work we are doing,” said Dr. Juliet Wahleithner, an associate professor in the Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education Department and the Kremen School’s assistant director of teacher education.

Driven by her passion for the Kremen School’s mission, Wahleithner helped lead accreditation efforts. Wahleithner said receiving national accreditation goes beyond teacher prep — it’s about producing results that remain consistent to the core of the programs and the students who benefit from the instruction.

“This accreditation affirms the Kremen School’s development and preparation of educators in the region — teachers, counselors and leaders,” Wahleithner said.

(Story by Jason Smithberg, communications specialist for the Kremen School.)

Donor Gift Represents a Labor of Love for Huggins Center

It was a gift of inspiration from a Kremen alum that transformed a labor of love into a reality. 

It was a gift that turned an ordinary, empty classroom into a flourishing academic oasis for children. 

Brittney Randolph can’t help but be overwhelmed by the generosity of the gift bestowed by a Kremen alum that has now provided significant learning opportunities for the students and staff at the Joyce Huggins Early Education Center

Randolph, the Program Director for the Fresno State Programs for Children, still recollects fondly upon the impact of this gift and what it has done to provide more opportunities for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Mathematics) learning. Randolph gave Chuck Hudelson a tour of the Huggins Center and in particular, a certain classroom that was “Reggio-inspired” from an innovative, four-pronged approach to education in Italy. This tour ignited his desire to donate the gift.

“The classroom that we were talking about was basically empty. We told him our ideas and what we envisioned for the room.”

said Randolph

All it took was one look at that empty classroom, paired with the inspiration of teaching, for a dream to become reality. From that point on, Randolph could tell how passionate Hudelson had become about the type of STEAM learning that was being taught at the Huggins Center. 

Randolph explained that they were actively seeking a donor who believed in their vision even before Hudleson came along. All it took was one look at an empty classroom for that search to end. Hudelson knew what needed to be done.

They needed chairs. They needed tables. They needed other basic classroom necessities to provide their students with the best possible learning experience. Dr. Hudelson stepped up, and delivered the ultimate gift of passion and generosity. 

Hudelson’s gift has now enabled them to purchase the STEAM  materials they need: microscope pens, light tables, projectors, coding pens. Randolph’s students now have the tools they require to help them succeed. 

“He told us to do whatever we wanted to do with the amount he gave us,” said Randolph. “He was just excited that these children could potentially learn things like this at such a young age.”

For Randolph, the gift serves as a constant reminder of the labor of love she and her staff share for the teaching of their students. The gift is not just about money; it’s about their passion for teaching. 

“We don’t always have the resources to do what we envision all the time. But when you have adequate financial resources, you can execute it exactly how you pictured it.”

Randolph explains.

After the “Reggio-inspired” themed classroom was completed, Randolph took snapshots of the room to share with Hudelson. She wanted him to see, firsthand, how his gift of generosity helped their vision come to fruition. “We wanted him to finally see the vision we had explained to him during that tour,” said Randolph. 

It was the best way for Randolph and her staff to say thank you for a gift inspired by love and vision.  

“The tears of joy that come from student parents at the end of the semester remind me why it is so important that we continue offering this opportunity to students, faculty, staff, and the local community,”

Randolph concludes. 

(Written by Jason Smithberg, Kremen Communications Specialist)

 From Internship to Success

Lucero Mendoza, an intern who worked with Kremen’s Center for Advising and Student Services, is now pursuing her master’s degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling. She is projected to graduate by Spring 2023, after which, she plans to become an academic counselor in higher education. The knowledge and life skills she gained through her internship prompted her to continue reaching for her dreams, instilling her with a sense of purpose and renewed confidence.

Unfortunately, Mendoza did not have a smooth transition to college. Being a first-generation college student, she was not equipped to navigate the intimidating environment of higher education. Because of this, she decided early on that she wanted to use her future degree to help assist other first-generation college students facing the same predicament. Throughout her first year of college, Mendoza was part of a support program called “College Assistance Migrant Program” (CAMP). CAMP not only provided her with valuable resources but also introduced her to the Student Affairs College Counseling program. She began seeking assistance from peer mentors within the program. This motivated her to become a support system for other students who may also be struggling or simply need someone to talk to.

Mendoza’s internship at Kremen has helped prepare her for a future position in higher education by showing her the foundational principles of college counseling. Over the course of the last year, she has developed a new outlook regarding academic advising.

“I now understand how important it is to build a rapport with students, learning how to put oneself in their shoes. This has allowed me to take into consideration the fact that students have other responsibilities outside of their academic life, and because of this, counselors must approach each student with kindness and an open mind.”

Lucero Mendoza

Mendoza has also learned the importance of networking with other professionals. Throughout her internship, she has taken part in the Teacher Recruitment Fair and has also joined the Campus Advisors Network, where she was able to learn how other advising centers operated across campus, including any new changes that were happening. Mendoza also had the opportunity to connect with the Liberal Studies Dean, as well as other counseling members from their department. These opportunities have given her the chance to get to know other professionals in her field and learn more about their unique journeys to higher education.

Lucero Mendoza (Second from far left) with some of the other staff members at the Center for Advising and Student Services.

Working with the Center for Advising and Student Services has allowed Mendoza to gain a vast array of technical experience. Through them, she mastered how to navigate PeopleSoft, Bulldog Connect, and Zoom. Some of the other skills she has acquired include building effective communication pathways amongst students, discovering how to motivate individuals, and learning how to become an approachable person. Mendoza quickly realized the importance of having good listening skills and now strives to be as attentive to students as possible. She wants to make sure her students feel understood and validated when coming in for a session. Through Kremen, she has been taught the importance of working as a collaborative team while also building healthy relationships with both her coworkers and students. 

One of the techniques Mendoza has adopted is being flexible with her student’s availability, especially with 98% of student meetings now occurring via Zoom. At times, students may prefer having a phone call or do not feel comfortable meeting face-to-face. Other times, they are only available in the late evenings or after school hours. To Mendoza, it is extremely important to meet students halfway and remind them that she is there to support them in any way she can. Through working with the advisors at Kremen, she has learned many different techniques on how to approach students. One of her biggest takeaways is remembering to always check in with her students and conduct a follow-up after their appointment.

Organization is another crucial skill that Mendoza picked up during her internship with the counseling center. She began to utilize platforms such as Google Calendar to help itemize priorities and to keep herself from over-booking.

“Juggling school, work, and an internship can quickly become overwhelming, but having a calendar helped me to stay accountable and on track. I also used it to remind myself to take self-care days, allowing my mind to naturally reset during stressful semesters.”

Lucero Mendoza

 Mendoza loves sharing this tool with her students, knowing that it will help them exert more responsibility over their academic lives.  

For Mendoza, the Center for Advising and Student Services will always be an environment filled with positivity and encouragement. The staff members provided her with tremendous support and guidance throughout her first year as an advisor intern. One of the most poignant memories Mendoza made during her internship was when Kremen hosted a Christmas potluck. It was her first-time meeting everyone in person since joining the department. She was amazed at how well everyone got along, something that made her feel included immediately.

Lucero attending the Christmas potluck with her coworkers.

Being with Kremen has made Mendoza realize that she wants to secure a job that makes her feel welcome and understood, a place where everyone works as a team and shares the same goal of supplying the best possible service for students.

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing Student Employed by The Kremen School of Education and Human Development)

Telehealth Transforms the Future of the Fresno Family Counseling Center

How the counseling center has overcome the challenges presented by the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic by performing online counseling services, remaining a priceless asset to the community. 

There were many anxious thoughts floating across the minds of the Fresno Family Counseling Center staff when the COVID-19 shutdown was announced. Countless tearful goodbyes were said in the warm, familiar halls of the center as a deep weight of dread and uncertainty settled over everyone. Their deeply-rooted passion to heal mental health and guide individuals back to a sense of wholeness was temporarily put on hold. 

For nearly three months the counseling center was shut down as it scrambled to convert everything to a digital format, causing a tremendous upheaval for both the staff and the students in the M.S. in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling program

Individuals, children, couples and families in the Central Valley rely on the counseling center for mental health services. In addition to Fresno State graduate students, who use the center as a training facility for highly structured and intensely supervised training to fulfill degree and licensure requirements.

The financial impact to the center was devastating as they were unable to accept online payment transactions during the initial stages of the shutdown. Even before the pandemic, the counseling center was already on a minimal budget due to their tremendously discounted session rates, allowing services to meet the needs of marginalized and underserved populations in the community.

Traditional private practice sessions normally range anywhere from $120-$250 an hour. The median payment that the Fresno Family Counseling Center receives is $20 per session, a figure that drops to $5 per session based on the financial status of the client.

The counseling center impacts a remarkably vast region of clients, stretching as far north as the Oregon border and as far south as the San Diego desert, amounting to 115,000 square miles worth of individuals who access their services from a range of 17 different counties in California. For over 35 years, the counseling center has addressed the mental health needs of countless individuals, making immense strides in the name of progress. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic posed numerous difficulties, the counseling center did not let these obstacles deter them. They adapted to the new environment by resuming sessions via Telehealth, an online counseling service. This new implementation increased their number of clients at a staggering rate. Convenience and accessibility were two main factors which manifested themselves with the advent of Telehealth. 

Dr. Christopher Lucey

Dr. Christopher Lucey, the director of the center who specializes in crisis intervention and a Fresno State professor, addresses some of the more beneficial aspects which have arisen thanks to Telehealth. 

“A positive that can be found in the conversion to Telehealth is that rural communities who have experienced a lack of access to mental health in the past, whether due to transportation issues or other isolation-related barriers, can now have their needs met via the internet,” said Lucey, beaming with pride. 

Telehealth has helped the counseling center broaden its geographic reach, especially in areas where mental health services are nonexistent. It offers a new level of convenience and accessibility, especially for those with busy schedules who find it difficult to set aside time for their mental health. It also provides peace of mind for those who struggle with extreme anxiety and for whom planning a long commute behind the wheel of a car would be detrimental. 

The M.S. in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling program has also found creative ways to acclimatize to the changing times. The State of California has allowed students to meet their licensure requirements for the Board of Behavioral Sciences through Telehealth due to the impact of the pandemic. There has been an increase in the amount of students enrolling in the program with the onset of online learning. Graduates of the program are highly sought after with nearly 100% of graduates finding employment within six months if they are actively looking for a job. The program is among only one of four accredited institutions in California that provide this specific type of training. 

Amber Hernandez

Amber Hernandez, a student in the Marriage, Family and Child Counseling graduate program, who will be graduating at the end of this semester, talks about her experience throughout the online conversion. 

“There were a lot of concerns going around with us students as to how we were going to accumulate our hours, how we we’re going to meet with clients, how COVID-19 was going to affect the quality of the services we we’re providing,” Amber explains, remembering back to the inception of the pandemic. 

“Our previous clinical director, Maira Martinez Hernandez, did an amazing job at facilitating everything for us through the training. Since we weren’t allowed to be at the office, she stayed there and held everything together. Dr. Lucey also played a huge part in making sure that the students were still able to accumulate their hours and access the support they needed.”

Through the counseling program, Hernandez has discovered her love of working with children. After initially entering graduate school, she had planned to focus primarily on Latinx families since she herself is both bilingual and first generation. However, she found an even deeper connection through seeing the level of rapport that can be built with children by observing how open and honest they become when they feel that they can trust someone. 

She describes how when one of her sessions was at an end, her child client was reluctant to leave because he was afraid of hurting her feelings. Hernandez explains how it is precious moments like these that feed her soul. 

“The Fresno Family Counseling Center has been a true blessing to my growth and to my graduate experience. I’ve always heard good things about the center, but now, being able to experience it first-hand and be trained by Dr. Lucey and many of the other wonderful therapists there has brought to life how much of an asset the Fresno Family Counseling Center really is, not only for Fresno State, but for the entire community,” said Hernandez. 

The expansion which the counseling center has undergone from its initial inception until now is tremendous in retrospect. When Lucey took over in 2006, the center was performing a total of 426 sessions a year. That number has now risen to over 45,000 in the last five years. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age, the individuals who attend sessions through the center show significant recorded improvement. Telehealth has only accelerated that improvement, allowing individuals to schedule sessions more frequently and from the comfort of their own home. 

The counseling program recently finished a site-visit with its national accrediting body; Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs and left a favorable testimonial regarding the counseling center:  

“The Fresno Family Counseling Center is a crown jewel not only for the MFCC program, but the department as a whole. From students to the CSU-Fresno’s President, the Fresno Family Counseling Center is seen as an exemplar of a community-based training center providing exceptional clinical services to the Fresno community. The center serves as a valued bridge between the university and the community.” 

(Written by Audra Burwell, a creative writing student in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development)

Internship Spotlight: Cristofer Araujo

Cristofer Araujo

Cristofer Araujo is currently interning both at the Fresno State Kremen School of Education and Human development, as well as at Fresno City College with the Dream Center, while also pursuing his masters in Student Affairs and College Counseling (SACC) which he will be receiving in spring of 2022. Cristofer’s internship at Kremen has prepared him in a variety of ways by allowing him to work directly with students, integrating what he has learned in the classroom into his academic sessions, as well as gaining the experience he’ll need when he finishes his master’s degree and begins searching for employment.

He has been learning new programs such as PeopleSoft and Bulldog Connect, while also gaining crucial social skills. He enjoys making students feel validated by acknowledging what the student needs in order to provide them with the full assistance they require to get back on track with their academics and find balance in all aspects of life. Providing friendly customer service to each of the students that he contacts is one of the specialized approaches that Cristofer has acquired during his internship. Making every meeting approachable by establishing professional student relationships is something he prides himself on. 

One of the highlights of his internship at Kremen is being able to network with other professionals in his field and feeling welcomed by the academic community as they continue to treat him as a true professional. One of his favorite memories while interning was the first day he walked into the office. The staff warmly embraced him and welcomed him onto their team, involving Cristofer in all of their events and allowing him to connect with each of the members.

While interning, he also learned more about organizations such as the Student Support Network, discovering the numerous tools they provide for students who struggle with time management, exam anxiety, while also offering ways a student can achieve balance in their life.

Cristofer has also acquired many interpersonal communication skills during his internship, learning in great detail all of the procedures that students must perform in order to reach a specific point in their academic career, such as which forms to fill out and how to do so. He is now able to explain topics more thoroughly and create new ways to interact with students who may have a difficult time understanding particular procedures. The overall tone of his internship at Kremen is friendly, professional, inclusive and inviting, allowing his natural talents to grow and develop. 

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing student employed by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development .)

The Divergent Publication Award for Excellence in Literacy in a Digital Age Research

Dr. David Low and Dr. Earl Aguilera of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State, were both recently recognized as 2023 recipients of the Divergent Publication Award for Excellence in Literacy in a Digital Age Research. This award recognizes the most outstanding publications during the past two years that bring to the forefront the importance and impact of this work, given by the Initiative for Literacy in a Digital Age.

The Initiative for Literacy in a Digital Age, established in 2014, recognizes the importance of literacy in a digital age, those who diverge from traditional pedagogies and research approaches, and the indelible contributions of educators and scholars who have dedicated their careers to the theoretical and practical study of 21st century literacies. 

“We received a record number of nominees for the 2023 class. The educators, librarians, community organizers, college and career leaders, and students honored by this recognition are paving the way for equity, diversity, inclusivity, and access to texts and tools for all learners.”

Dr. Shelbie Witte, founding director of the Initiative.
Pedagogies: An International Journal (Taylor & Francis)

Dr. Low’s publication award is for a 2021 article titled “Youth Identities and Affinities on the Move: Using a Transliteracies Framework to Critique Digital Dichotomies,” which he co-authored with Sarah Rapp, a UCSC doctoral student and incoming faculty member at Sonoma State University. The article was published in Pedagogies: An International Journal (Taylor & Francis) and argues that oppositional framings of digitality do not adequately convey the creativity, permeability, messiness, and movement of youth literacies in practice. The authors used a transliteracies framework to examine youths’ textual production and identity mediation across physical and virtual domains, focusing on student participation in affinity spaces.

Dr. Aguilera’s publication award is for co-editing a Special Issue of Pedagogies: An International Journal titled “Critical Literacies in a Digital Age” in 2021 with Dr. Jessica Zacher Pandya, Dean of the School of Education at CSU Dominguez Hills. In this Special Issue, Drs. Aguilera and Pandya curated a number of research studies that together examined the resurgent social, political, cultural, and economic tension – in part facilitated by emerging information and communication technologies – which underscore the need to cultivate new forms of critical literacy in our digital age. Drs. Aguilera and Pandya framed their Special Issue around the following question:

In an educational context increasingly marked by volatility and uncertainty, but also connection and creative potential, in what ways might a focus on CDL inform pedagogical theory and practice?

Drs. Low and Aguilera, among other 2023 honorees, will be sharing their work as part of the Literacy in a Digital Age lecture series in April 2023.

Demonstrating Innovation in the Classroom

Kathleen Giannandrea is an instructional coach at Rosy High School in the Sanger Unified School District, where she has now held a position for over 26 years. She performed a 5 year stint for the Fresno County Office of Education, working with AVID, a program which imparted upon her many useful teaching skills. Giannandrea was fortunate to have multiple pathways which continuously brought her back to Fresno State. 

She transferred from College of The Sequoias with her associates degree before eventually earning her bachelor’s and obtaining her teaching credentials from Fresno State in 1994. After completing her work with the Fresno County Office of Education and returning to her teaching position at Rosy High School, Giannandrea discovered that her department was offering support for instructors who wanted to pursue master’s degrees. Fresno State had partnered with Giannandrea’s distinct, in the hopes of helping elementary, junior high, and High School teachers complete their higher education goals. The program allowed professors to travel to the office on campus and provide instruction there instead of forcing the busy teachers to commute all the way to Fresno State. In 2018, Giannandrea graduated with her master’s degree in education, with a reading language arts focus, after studying with the cohort for two and a half years. She was one of only seven High School teachers who were able to successfully complete the program. 

While pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Fresno State, Giannandrea was a full time employee at the Visalia Times Delta working 38 to 40 hours a week in a newspaper system while also commuting to Fresno on the daily. Struggling to balance all areas of her life, Giannandrea learned that if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it work. Her only remaining parent had passed shortly before she transferred from College of The Sequoias to Fresno State and she unfortunately was not able to navigate the financial aid system in place at the time, so instead, she paid out of pocket for her entire education. Giannandrea remembers the constant sleepless nights she would experience while working toward her first degree. She did not have the traditional college experience in the sense that she didn’t live in the dorms or attend student parties, something that Giannandrea is grateful for since she believes it fit her personality and allowed her to focus more on her studies. 

Giannandrea’s journey toward her master’s degree is even more vivid in her mind and came with its share of lessons, as well. One of the first things she learned is that expectations and beliefs held by professors in higher education are much different than those harbored by K-12th public education professionals. Giannandrea began learning about critical literacy concepts while also being taught inventive, research-based methods to capture the attention of students and encourage them to read and write in a real-world context. After coming back to Rosy High school, she found that it was exceptionally difficult to implement her learning since many of the faculty members were still so entrenched in the traditional methods of teaching that had been used since the late 1800’s. Giannandrea was slowly able to meld what she learned during her master’s program with her in-class curriculum, demonstrating new and innovative teaching methods to her other coworkers. Another lesson that Giannandrea learned is that research remains vital even after one has completed their education. She is currently the department chair and a full-time instructional coach for the English Language Arts department at Rosy High School. Giannandrea is part of a professional learning community where she asks what goals or learning outcomes parents have for their children and then researches ways to help her students connect more with their coursework. She participated in a project based on youth participatory action research where she helped students learn how to become competent researchers, both in the classroom and in their personal lives. 

Over the years, Giannandrea has won numerous awards and medals for her academic achievements, both as a student and as an educator, but the accomplishment which she is most proud of is her ability to aid other educators, something that her master’s degree helped come to fruition. Thanks to Fresno State and their creation of a remote master’s cohort program, Giannandrea was able to obtain a wealth of leadership experience which helped to prepare her for her position as an instructional leader. She learned the importance of documenting change, as well as how to develop systems to support student learning. Having mentors in the master’s program also benefited Giannandrea tremendously, since there were many instances when she came across a situation where she was uncertain how to proceed. She was fortunate to stay in touch with her professors, since whenever she encountered a predicament, Giannandrea would simply email them and receive a solution by the end of the day. Giannandrea is forever grateful for the relationships she built with her colleagues and the immense support she continues to receive from Fresno State. 

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing student employed by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development .)