Mike Snell, CEO of the California Teaching Fellows Foundation, named the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership’s 2023 Graduate Student Honoree

Fresno State’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership has named Mike Snell as a 2023 Graduate Student Honoree. Each year, the Division of Research and Graduate Studies asks graduate programs to nominate an outstanding student as their program’s honoree. Graduate student honorees are those who lead in ways beyond academic and research acheivements, while displaying character, integrity, and an ability to inspire others.

Earning an Ed.D. requires completing a dissertation demonstrating a candidate’s ability to plan, write, and defend an original research study. A dissertation culminates a doctoral candidate’s scholarly work in graduate school. Mike’s dissertation is titled Prototyping expanded learning programs and youth workers to build and diversify teacher education in California. His dissertation committee comprised Dr. Rohit Mehta (Dissertation Chair), Dr. Heather Horsley, and Dr. Cecilia Mendoza from Fresno State, and Dr. Hank Gutierrez.

When asked about Mike, his dissertation chair, Dr. Rohit Mehta, said “Mike is a passionate educator, eager to roll up his sleeves and do the work required to make systemic shifts happen. [To Mike,] social justice-oriented work is more than theory. It is about changing policy and practices, redesigning status quo approaches that continue to hinder and harm our students, especially our students from historically marginalized populations.”

Mike’s dissertation addressed a key challenge that can help educators bridge K-12 and

after-school experiences by providing expanded learning opportunities to students in ways that go beyond standardized curricula and the status quo. Dr. Snell’s work is a first step in a direction that can reshape how we support our communities to reform education with justice-oriented design.

About Fresno State’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership

Fresno State’s doctoral program in educational leadership supports the CSU system-wide effort to offer professional practice doctoral programs in Educational Leadership. Fresno State’s

three-year program supports working professionals poised for leadership in P12 school sites and districts, as well as community colleges and universities. Upon completion, candidates will earn a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree.

Learn more about the Fresno State Ed.D. Program at fresnostate.edu/edd and on social media @EdDFresnoState

The Gaston Family Legacy Through Scholarships

Each year, the Kremen School hosts a reception for students who have earned the Rutherford B. Gaston, Sr. Scholarship. For this award, a student must be accepted in either Kremen’s Teacher Credentialing Program or Master’s in Education Program with an overall GPA of 3.5 or above. The scholarship was founded in honor of Rutherford B. Gaston, a man with a legacy of devotion to the field of education. 

Rutherford was born in Griffin, Georgia, the 13th of 15 children. His family moved north to Brackenridge, Pennsylvania when he was only two years old. After serving in the US Army during WWII, Rutherford moved back home and married his sweetheart, Willodyne, on October 13th, 1944. After working briefly at a steel mill alongside his brothers, Rutherford decided he was meant for something greater. That is when he packed up his family, which had grown to include his son Rutherford Jr. who was only three months old at the time, and moved out west, settling in Fresno. 

(Willodyne, right, a member of the Iota Phi Lambda Sorority and a Charter member of the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc)

Rutherford initially enrolled at Fresno State with the goal of earning a Bachelor’ Degree in Business. However, due to the racist nature of the time, he was told “a Negro would have a difficult time obtaining a job in business”. As a result, he changed his major to education, a decision which he claims was the best he ever made. After obtaining his credentials, Rutherford began teaching fifth grade at Columbia Elementary School within Fresno Unified School District

Prior to becoming the first African American principal in Fresno Unified School District, Rutherford served as lead teacher at Columbia Elementary School.  

“One of my fondest memories was as a very young girl in the early 60’s going to my father’s classroom and sitting at a desk with the “big kids”, my feet not yet touching the ground, listening to my father teach,”

– explains Eugenia Gaston Reeves, Rutherford’s daughter. 

In 1963, Rutherford became the first African American principal in Fresno Unified, simultaneously taking charge of two elementary schools, Teilman and Emerson. These schools were located across town from one another, making dual-leadership a daunting task indeed. Many feared that Rutherford would fail due to the overwhelming nature of the position. Instead, he excelled. 

After serving as principal of Teilman and Emerson, Rutherford became the principal of Jefferson Elementary School.  Rutherford last location where he served as principal at Bethune Elementary School, a place where the student population was primarily African American. The students under his leadership scored significantly higher on standardized tests than other schools in the districts. Suspicious of their scores, the state of California requested that they be retested, only for Rutherford’s students to score even higher than the first time. Rutherford continued overseeing Bethune’s success for another fourteen years before retiring. 

Rutherford  believed in ‘each one reach one’ and applied this as he mentored many African American teachers who also became school administrators.  

Rutherford’s two greatest joys in life were his family and the sharing of knowledge, causing him to combine the two. To show that love, he established scholarships at Fresno State in both his wife’s name, Willodyne, and his deceased son’s name, Craig. 

Upon his death, Rutherford’s remaining four children were initially at a loss as to how they could commemorate their father’s legacy. However, they understood the significance education had on their father’s life. He had earned his Bachelor’s Degree, Teaching Credential, and Master’s Degree through Fresno State, making the Kremen School a natural choice to establish a scholarship in his name. 

The Gaston family considers it an honor and privilege to attend the scholarship reception each spring and to commemorate Rutherford’s memory in such a meaningful way. For the past several years, due to the pandemic, the award ceremony has been hosted virtually, enabling a greater number of Gaston family members to attend. They enjoy hearing about these students’ diverse backgrounds and journeys as they receive their scholarships, knowing that they are making a positive impact, not only on the local community, but on the future of education in the Central Valley. 

On April 24, 2012, the Fresno Unified School District board voted to name a new southwest middle school after Mr. Gaston. The school opened on August 18, 2014 and was dedicated on September 19, 2014. Gaston Middle School serves students in grades 7-8, and is the first

Fresno Unified School to operate a Health and Wellness Center for the neighborhood community. 

The Gaston family legacy also continues on through Rutherford’s brother Everett, his wife Gail and their daughter Summer. Everett is a retired educator who taught at Bullard High School for nearly a decade. Gail is one of the visionary leaders who helped establish the Peace Garden at Fresno State, a space that pays tribute to the many individuals whose lives were devoted to peace and activism. Their daughter Summer is currently an administrator in the Fresno Unified School District. As a result, there has been a Gaston employed in FUSD continuously since 1953, creating a legacy across three generations.

If you are a student currently enrolled in the Teacher Credentialing Program or Master’s in Education Program and would like to apply for the scholarship, visit this link. If you would like to make a donation to the scholarship fund, please visit this website

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

Kremen’s HEAL Program is Recognized for Outstanding Student Leadership

Sade Johnson, a student in Kremen’s Higher Education Administration and Leadership (HEAL) program, was recently recognized as an “Outstanding Graduate Student” by the California College Personnel Association (CCPA) as well as earning the “Graduate Student Honoree” award for recognition at the Division of Research and Graduate Studies (DRGS). Sade is expected to receive her M.A. in Spring 2023 with a 4.0 GPA.

During the course of the 30-semester unit program, HEAL students delve into curricula that examines policies, practices, theories, and current issues related to the postsecondary education pipeline. HEAL prepares emerging leaders for professional roles in academic affairs, making Sade a perfect representation of the program’s mission. Sade is a first-generation, system-impacted, low-income student-parent, who is also a wife and mother to two young children. She previously earned her B.A. in African American Studies with an emphasis on African American/Black Culture, Histories, and Society with a Minor in Mathematics from the University of California, Davis

Sade’s passion for higher education stemmed from her transition to parenthood while still being enrolled in college. She experienced many of the injustices the system perpetuates toward parenting students, an experience which caused her to courageously advocate for policies and practices rooted in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, leading to her current work as a graduate assistant for Project HOPE, a case management service that addresses the basic needs of Fresno State’s student population. Sade has also collaborated with the Michelson 20MM Foundation, serving on their Spark Basic Needs Grant Committee. The foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in higher learning initiatives that seek to transform the lives of underrepresented students.

Sade is also a Graduate Equity Fellow, her fellowship experience includes serving on the planning committee for the inaugural Higher Education Student Affairs in the Central Valley (HESA-CV) Conference, an annual meeting that aims to establish local networking opportunities for graduate students. She also serves as Vice-chair for the Student Advisory Council (SAC) at a dual-immersion charter school.

Sade aspires to continue working in higher education, advocating for students who are underrepresented or who have been impacted by the system. She is especially passionate about helping student-parents, students of color, first-generation students, and those classified as low-income. Sade has a strong belief that everyone is entitled to an education, no matter what their circumstances. 

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

Kremen’s Student Affairs and College Counseling Program Displays Excellence in Academic Leadership 

Two current students and one alumni from the Kremen School of Education and Human Development’s Student Affairs and College Counseling program (SACC) were recently elected and appointed into leadership roles within the California College Personnel Association (CCPA). CCPA is the California state chapter of ACPA-College Student Educators International, one of the largest student affairs professional associations in the world. CCPA is committed to providing professional development, networking opportunities, leadership experience, and information on the latest trends and issues in the field of academia. Jose Medina III (alumni) has been elected as President-Elect of CCPA. Samantha Bautista (current student) was elected as CCPA’s Director of Communication with her classmate Ashley Gutierrez taking on the role as Graduate Representative for CCPA.

Kremen’s SACC program provides individuals with the academic preparation and training to effectively address the academic, career, and personal counseling needs of college students. SACC students receive extensive training and supervision in the core conditions of Person-Centered Counseling through coursework, practicum, and field practice. The application of the core conditions in the work of student affairs professionals is essential in developing cohesive working relationships and understanding the needs of diverse students in higher education. The classroom and experiential opportunities allow SACC students to learn, practice, and apply their counseling knowledge in a variety of higher education settings.


Ashley Gutierrez is a first-generation Latina college student and was accepted in 2021 to the Master’s in Student Affairs and College Counseling (SACC) program at Fresno State. She previously attended Reedley Community College before transferring to Fresno State, earning her B.A. in 2018. Since returning as a grad student, Ashley has been actively involved: currently she is working for Academic Success Coaching as an Academic Coach, where she supports students’ educational journey at Fresno State. Similarly, last summer she joined Fresno State’s Dog Days Orientation Team and welcomed incoming students. This past fall semester, she completed an internship with the Transfer Success Center while helping to coordinate their National Transfer Student Week. Outside of school, she has also been actively engaged within the Central Valley communities by participating in the Central Valley Latino Leadership Academy, the League of Mexican American Women, and has also written grants and historical research for Arte America. Being appointed as the Graduate Representative for CCPA is meaningful since she will be able to not only network with like minded individuals, but will also use the skills she learned from the SACC graduate program to address various needs of higher education & student affairs professionals and graduate students in California. 


Jose L Medina III (he/him) is a Central Valley Native born and raised in Merced, a city in the center of California. His commitment to the region and higher education forms his personal mission to promote college access for those who come from the surrounding rural communities. Prior to his current role in the School of Engineering at the University of California, Merced, Jose served as the inaugural Admissions Outreach Specialist in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at California Health Sciences University (2022) as well as various roles within the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and the Division of Academic Affairs at Fresno State (2018-2022). 

Jose advocates for empowering students to reach their full potential academically and personally. He is a strong believer that in the field of Higher Education, we are in this together. This not only includes mentoring of students but also the mentoring of aspiring student affairs professionals. 

Jose received a BA in History and an M.S. in Counseling – Student Affairs and College Counseling option (with distinction) from Fresno State. Beginning in Fall 2023 he will begin his Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education Administration from St. Cloud State University

Jose’s leadership has also been recognized in various ways. His current position as P.E. for CCPA, which is a three-year elected position as part of the Presidential Cycle: President-Elect (2023-2024), President (2024 – 2025), Past-President (2025 – 2026). Prior to his current role as President-Elect, Jose served as Director of Membership (2022-2023) and Graduate Student Representative (2020-2021). Jose also serves as the Co-Chair of Outreach for the Staff and Faculty of Color Association at UC Merced


Samantha Bautista (she/her), is a first-generation graduate student in the Master’s of Counseling, Student Affairs and College Counseling program. She received her B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Criminology in Spring 2021, and anticipates graduating with her Master’s in May 2023 as a two-time Alumni.  

Samantha has dedicated over five years of working with diverse students in various roles at Fresno State. She is currently serving as the Work-Based Learning Experiences Project Coordinator for the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) Initiative. Prior to this role she served as an Assistant Coordinator for the College of Social Sciences (COSS) Link Peer Mentor Program. In addition to this, she interned as an Academic Success Coach with the formerly named program SupportNet, now known as Academic Success Coaching

Throughout Samantha’s graduate program journey she served in leadership roles such as Secretary for the Student Affairs and College Counseling Graduate Student Association. She was recently nominated and elected as the Director of Communications for (CCPA). Through this role she is responsible for being a liaison between the Association and the members, managing the social media platforms, and sending out Newsletters among other responsibilities. She is looking forward to serving alongside her peers and the CCPA leadership team. Samantha is passionate about serving students through various roles in Student Affairs and College Counseling.

Kremen Student Wins Award for Improving the Quality of Life for Students with Disabilities

Back in October, Noble was awarded the City of Fresno Disability Advisory Commission’s 14th Annual Achievement Award for outstanding and dedicated service to improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Noble was nominated for the award by Dr. Alicia Becton, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development

Jordan Noble was only 25 years old when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She was working for Fresno Unified School District in the Special Education Department at the time and holding down three different jobs.

Shortly after the diagnosis, she began to struggle with walking and standing. She was falling down more than usual.

“After I got the diagnosis, the progression of the disease was a lot quicker than doctors were expecting,”

– Noble. 

As a result, Noble’s life changed faster than she anticipated. She had to purchase a wheelchair and come to grips with the effects of having a disability. She had to put aside her plans to adjust to a new lifestyle by requesting accommodations and resources.

“The biggest test for me was learning to find myself after becoming disabled. Who I was as a person changed fundamentally.”

– Noble.

Noble, now 37, could’ve used her diagnosis as a reason to give up on life; instead, she used it as motivation to help others with disabilities. Now, her accomplishments have been recognized by the City of Fresno.

Noble’s diagnosis forced her to open a case with the California Department of Rehabilitation to explore her options and determine what services were available to assist her. It also served as a secret blessing, one she never imagined at the time. 

She spent the next several years picking up the pieces of her broken education by attending Fresno City College. After she finished her education, Noble transferred to Fresno State. It was then that her new passion started to surface. 

Noble began interning with Resources for Independence Central Valley (RICV) as a Youth Empowerment Specialist when she bumped into Dr. Becton, who was at the time the RICV Board President. She expressed to Dr. Becton her interest in becoming a counselor, and after that, the rest is history. Mentorship, community connections, and support were key pieces to Noble thriving in her endeavors. 

Noble enrolled in the Masters of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program at Fresno State. Things quickly began to change for her.

 “If it weren’t for Fresno State, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”

– Noble.

Dr. Alicia Becton, Sarah Harris, Dr. Yuleinys Castillo, and Aubrey Alfano wrote the inspiring letters of recommendation that eventually garnered Noble the DAC Achievement Award.

With her new award firmly in hand, Noble has future aspirations of working for the California Department of Rehabilitation. She hopes to assist others who also identify with having disabilities while also limiting her work to part-time so she can focus on family. 

Until then, Noble’s award will continue to uplift her family, friends, and the community. 

“All that means to me is that everybody else needs to step their game up.”

– Noble.

(Written by staff members at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development)  

The SECREd Garden: A Haven for the Community 

Community Garden projects are gaining momentum across the country as they serve as places to beautify and unite neighborhood communities as well as to grow crops in neighborhoods where there are issues of food insecurity. Community gardens have been shown to have many strong and positive impacts wherever they are established. They serve as spaces to educate children about beauty and conservation, allowing citizens to explore their cultural heritage through community practices associated with food production, agricultural traditions and storytelling, and serve as natural gathering places which unite the community. Existing gardens on Fresno State’s campus include the Peace Garden, Maple Mall Arboretum, Allergy-Free Demonstration Garden, and the Memorial Plaza Garden

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development is currently embarking on their own project to connect outdoor education efforts on Fresno State’s campus to community members and local agencies. Kremen employs innovative models of teaching that emphasize the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) in Transitional Kindergarten (TK-12) education. Studies show that outdoor learning experiences positively impact science, literacy and math standards as well as the environmental, nutritional, social-emotional aspects of learning and development. Opportunities to explore outdoor classrooms and gardens have proven to transform the academic experience, contributing to increased teacher commitment in the sciences as well as improving student interest and curiosity in the natural world. To meet the growing need for outdoor learning spaces that support wellness, research and STEAM education across a range of ages and disciplines, the Kremen School is establishing a SECREd Garden Demonstration Program. The name SECREd Garden stands for STEAM Experiences through Community, Research, Education and Demonstration.

The SECREd Garden program was founded by Christina Macias and was inspired by her Master’s work in Early Childhood Education at the Kremen School. The primary scope of her research was centered around the barriers and affordances of early science education. She became interested in providing developmentally appropriate spaces that would engage young learners in the field of science exploration. This interest spurred her on a year-long journey of visiting school gardens, farms, and outdoor learning spaces across the state to gather a better understanding of how to establish her vision. 

“The SECREd Garden will provide for equitable and accessible science experiences for young children while supporting pre-service teacher training, research, the community, the Fresno State campus, and most importantly: food security and wellness opportunities.”

– Christina

While Christina was the initial creator of the project, it quickly transformed into an expansive group effort, requiring the involvement of professionals, students, and volunteers spanning across multiple disciplines. 

I continue to be inspired by the range of interest and participation in the project from students, Fresno State faculty and the surrounding community.  The range of expertise and commitment to this work has been more than I could have imagined.”

– Christina.

The original concept for the SECREd Garden was developed in partnership with Dr. Cathy Yun, a Senior Researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, and was presented to the University in 2016. Time was spent over the next year introducing and refining the project details in collaboration with the Campus Planning Committee, VP for Administration Deborah Adishian-Astone, and Associate VP for Facilities Management Tinnah Medina. 

Calliope Correia, an Instructional Support Technician III with the Jordan College of Agriculture Science and Technology, was introduced to the project early on as she was recognized as the campus expert on effective horticulture practices. Her work is deeply rooted in wellness and therapeutic methods which aligns with the program’s central mission to connect the community with natural spaces.

“Access to natural spaces, whether wild or intentionally designed, is critical to our well-being. The SECREd garden is a wonderful culmination of ideas and experiences that will benefit the University and the community not only with harvests and access to fresh vegetables but for the opportunity to play in the soil and get dirty!”

 – Calliope.

Calliope has remained a constant supporter, consultant, and visionary since the project’s inception. Through both her and Christina’s tireless efforts, the project was granted permission to explore Phase 1 in the Spring of 2018. It was determined that the SECREd Garden was to be located on the west side of the Kremen School. 

Since then, an ongoing fundraising campaign has taken place to establish the necessary funding for placing the project out to bid. This campaign has been supported by ASI, community donors, and through DOG Days, along with other Fresno State Crowdfunding opportunities. While many project-related activities were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts were made to continue the development of the SECREd Garden. Outreach with numerous project partners allowed the program to grow despite its need for a physical location.  

The proposed project includes the development and maintenance of a demonstration garden and an outdoor classroom space. The goal is to allow students and educators to address interdisciplinary research, partake in play-based learning, explore early science experiences, learn healthy eating habits, and study community food scarcity issues. 

Jacob Hurst, a lecturer in the Fresno State Plant Science department, has created a detailed revegetation plan for the turtle pond located near the proposed site of the SECREd Garden. After acquiring measurements of the proposed space and taking aerial satellite shots, Jacob realized that there was a lot of work to be done. He intends to design a managed ecosystem for the children of the Huggins Center while also reducing the amount of maintenance required on the garden.

Jacob aims to alter the ecology of the landscape by introducing plants native to the area, allowing them to function as natural mulch to cover the bare patches of soil. Currently situated in the Huggins Center play yard, the Turtle Pond is a feature which Jacob plans to revitalize by creating shade using plants that produce thick leaves and foliage. 

“There is some concern, especially during the summer, about having coverage for the turtles. Introducing water lilies, for example, or even simply denser vegetation around the edges, will provide countless benefits for them.”

– Jacob. 

His revegetation outline also includes the introduction of more flowering vines to increase cross-pollination. To accomplish this, he intends to place Passion flowers along the back fence which will attract a variety of insects. 

Another individual who has played a crucial role in the SECREd Garden project is Arashnoor (Arsh) Gill, a student in the Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling Master’s program in the Kremen School. Arsh was first introduced to the SECREd Garden and quickly appointed to the position of student leader through engaging with Christina Macias in an adolescent development course in the Child and Family Science department. 

A primary goal for both Arsh and Christina has been to maintain a strong student presence within the project. By holding tabling and gardening events on campus, the two have been able to draw many students into the SECREd Garden student leadership committee, a group that meets on a regular basis. 

Arsh has also helped develop a gardening curriculum for the CalFresh Healthy Living series by partnering with the Student Cupboard, currently assisted by Michael Ballin. He has helped reconceptualize the SECREd Garden as a non-physical entity and has worked with several other organizations to explore gardening and early education opportunities. Most recently, he has helped to develop a social media page for the project while also offering a pivotal presence during fundraising events.

Arsh’s area of research is centered around multiculturalism, mental health, and how gardening is heavily influenced by cultural practices. Working on the SECREd Garden project has been an extremely fulfilling experience for Arsh and has allowed him to conceptualize how such a space can positively impact an individual’s outlook. 

“Dean Yerrick and I would meet up at the turtle pond to remove the remaining banana trees. It was a fun experience for everyone involved because we would share stories, talk about our backgrounds, and discuss how much gardening meant to us.”

– Arsh.

The SECREd Garden has truly been a collaborative community effort. It would not have come this far in development without the countless volunteers who have participated in the program’s numerous projects over the years.

“We intend to leverage this garden to emphasize the education of children in the heritage of agriculture, sustainability, and the stewardship of resources that was practiced here in this area long before Fresno State was built.  Indigenous people’s had important ways of managing resources and caring for the environment that need to be remembered and that we continue to learn from. Early childhood education at the Huggins Center is an important time and place to begin to emphasize STEAM education from a culturally sustaining perspective.”

– Dr. Randy Yerrick, Dean of the Kremen School.

Many contributions are from Fresno State faculty and staff who have devoted their time as consultants and provided expertise in building an inclusive framework for the project. There have been countless volunteers for site specific projects with unique connections to gardening practices, many of which have been University High School students. The SECREd Garden team is also incredibly grateful for the countless supporters who have provided substantial financial support over the course of the project. 

“Fresno State has the unique opportunity to serve as a demonstration model for outdoor learning, interdisciplinary partnerships, and the diverse cultural practices associated with land use and sustainable food practices. Our mission is to provide a space where all members of local communities can engage in work that supports their individual and community interests.”

 – Christina.

Due to generous contributions from donors, we will now be able to break ground of the SECREd Garden in the Spring of 2023, however, more donations will be needed to fund future stages of the project.

If you want to make a donation to the SECREd Garden project, please visit this site.

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

Fresno Rural Teacher Residency Program Receive Statewide Honors for Excellence 

The Fresno Rural Teacher Residency Program (Rural-TRP), an educator preparation partnership between Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development and Fresno County Superintendent of Schools (FCSS), is front and center for excellence in local teacher residency partnerships. Recently, their efforts have been recognized as the best in the Central Valley, and by extension, the State of California. 

This project would not have gained such high honors if it hadn’t been for strong district partnerships and a supportive alliance of dedicated educators. The collaborative leadership of Dr. Heather Horsley, Director of Teacher Residency Programs in Kremen, along with Christina Macias, Rural-TRP Professor-in-Residence and Dr. Hank Gutierrez, FCSS Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, with Brooke Berrios, FCSS Program Coordinator of Residency Programs, positions the Rural Teacher Residency Program as a successful model for partnering with multiple rural districts focused on growing its own teachers. 

Kremen has a decade of experience developing, improving, and sustaining teacher residency programs and is seen as a leader of this rigorous pathway, teaching both locally and nationally.  Kremen residency leadership and faculty are responsive to the needs of their local district partners. They design coursework and clinical experiences that ensure that the teacher residents are day-one ready to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students in the Central Valley.

Historically, Kremen’s teacher residency partnerships have focused on the needs of the larger local districts, in part because they can more successfully hire the resident graduates into their districts. This created unequal access to highly prepared teachers for smaller districts. Fresno County and Kremen leadership worked to address the issue, which led to the launch of the Rural-TRP in August 2021.

“When superintendents of local, rural districts opened up conversations about their unique needs, we felt a collective responsibility to take intentional action. We were driven by a common goal of developing a rural teacher pipeline that creates the conditions where K-12 students, rural  residents, teachers, and communities can thrive. It amazes me how much we have accomplished in a short period of time, something that would not be possible without a strong local partnership consisting of several interest holders.”

– Dr. Horsley.     

The success of the County-University partnership has been recognized with two prestigious state awards for excellence in education.    

The California School Boards Association recently bestowed upon FCSS, in recognition of the Fresno-TRP, the 2022 Golden Bell Award in the Professional Development and Teacher Recruitment/Retention Category. The CSBA Golden Bell Awards promote excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs and practices of school boards in school districts and county offices of education throughout California.

The Fresno-TRP is geared towards recruiting, retaining, and supporting a teacher workforce that accurately reflects community demographics. It positions teachers to thrive by providing equity-driven professional development and intentional partnerships with mentor teachers. The Rural-TRP also partners with the California Teaching Fellows Foundation, a local expanded learning program, to deepen the rural teacher pipeline.

“What stands out most to me is how the Rural Teacher Residency Programs recognizes the various community assets that exist, and the ways in which there is a desire to bring those community assets together to help accomplish the goals of the rural residency. As a community based organization, I appreciate the recognition and inclusion strategies that helped uplift our agency in the process and created the circumstances that allowed those students to make the transition from Expanded Learning youth worker into the residency program.”

– Mike Snell, CEO California Teaching Fellows Foundation.

The success of the Rural Residency goes beyond instruction in the classroom. The local, rural districts have the opportunity to hire resident graduates, the majority of whom are residents of the rural communities in which they serve. To have teachers who reflect the backgrounds of the K-12 students and who are deeply rooted in their communities is greatly beneficial to the students’ academic and social development. 

“This [program] is extremely important. We want to see our hometowns grow and progress. I plan to stay here and serve the Spanish-speaking community. Teachers that understand and can connect with parents will change the lives of rural students.”

– a member of the Rural Resident Cohort 1. 

At present, the Rural Residency partners with districts have hosted two distinct cohorts. The first cohort of 19 residents graduated in May 2022, while the second cohort of 18 residents is currently enrolled. Together, 35 rural residents have been placed in 10 different elementary schools in the Kerman, Firebaugh, Mendota, and Golden Plains school districts.

According to information provided by Berrios, of the 19 rural residents in cohort one, 74% have received contract offers. Nearly 63% were hired back into a rural district and 27% were hired on Dual Immersion contracts.

“The Rural Teacher Residency supports the Teacher Development, Economic Development, and Human Capital for the communities of Firebaugh – Las Deltas, Kerman, Mendota,  Golden Plains, Laton, and Parlier Unified in an “equity in action” model, providing the essential elements for long-term sustainable educational effectiveness and generating highly qualified teachers for some of California’s most impoverished students.”

Dr. Gutierrez

An Apple for Excellence

In addition to receiving the Golden Bell Award, the Rural Teacher Residency  Partnership was also awarded the Apple for Excellence Award from the California County Boards of Education. The Apple for Excellence Award recognizes outstanding programs administered by county offices of education that reflect the depth and breadth of a county education program necessary to address students’ changing needs.

The Apple for Excellence Award also represents an appreciation to the dedicated educators in county offices across the state that strive to provide high-quality education with cutting-edge innovation.

Both awards signify a level of distinction that sets these programs apart from others in the state. These awards also validate FCSS and Kremen’s ongoing commitment to shape policy around funding, diversification, recruitment, and retention efforts for the rural teacher pipeline.

“These awards highlight outstanding programs and provide an opportunity to share information about effective educational strategies with other county offices of education throughout the state.”

–  Berrios. 

The Rural Teacher Residency Program received both awards at the Golden Bell Awards Reception and Ceremony on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

(Written by Dr. Heather L. Horsley, Assistant Professor and Residency Director at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development and co-authored by Kremen staff)