A Day in the Life of a Principal: Cindy Monroy

Running a school is no easy task, especially when it comes to balancing the needs of teachers, students, parents and the surrounding community, while also maintaining a well-rounded curriculum. Principal Cindy Monroy gives us an inside look at how she manages to keep up with her sometimes overwhelming schedule while still making time to actively participate in the lives of her students. 

During the early morning hours between 8a.m. – 9a.m., Principal Monroy checks in with her assigned secretary to see what upcoming engagements are listed on her calendar, while also responding to emails that require immediate attention. She then types up a routine morning announcement which is aired across campus. Principal Monroy finishes the morning off by welcoming all of her students by name as they head to class. 

Between 9a.m. – 12.pm., Principal Monroy holds a meeting with the Student Accountability Team which specializes in interventionists for math, reading, and language acquisition, where she is able to discuss student progress and program efficacy. Sometimes, she may also be found at the district office, meeting with the Health & Safety Team, The Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Committee (CIA), or the district-wide leadership team. When she is not in a meeting, she enjoys visiting classrooms and engaging with staff and students. 

For Principal Monroy, lunch breaks are unorthodox and mostly nonexistent. When not in a meeting, she usually leaves the office and supervises lunch duty, sometimes bringing her morning snack and joining students in the cafeteria while they tell her about their day. It is rare that she is allowed to sit down and have an uninterrupted lunch. Lunchtime for a Principal is often a working lunch or lunch on the go. If she is in the office, she sits at her desk and eats lunch, while reviewing emails or signing documents. Oftentimes, she has pending conversations with her counselor or vice-principal as they join in on a working lunch because they know that at any time, an unexpected situation may arise and Principal Monroy likes to stay ahead of those possibilities. The end of her day concludes by wrapping up any necessary discipline reports, making calls home, responding to emails and preparing her schedule for the following day.

During the evenings, Principal Monroy is equally busy, as she strives to catch up with other ongoing obligations. On Monday evenings, she rushes home to log into her doctoral classes which run from 5p.m. through 10p.m. On Tuesday/Thursday evenings, she attends Board Meetings once a month, and when she is not engaged in one of these meetings, she and her husband split the chauffeuring duties, taking one child to soccer practice while the other tackles gymnastics class. On Wednesdays, she likes to stay connected with other professionals in the Central Valley and currently serves as President to the Region 3 Central Valley California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CV-CALSA). She reviews and plans for the work that they are doing as an organization. She hosts and facilitates monthly Executive Board meetings to help continue their work in the Central Valley. On Fridays, all students and staff leave campus by 3:30pm, which allows plenty of time for her to prepare the Principal’s Newsletter for the following week, filling it with updates and a calendar of events. She finally heads home after an eventful day to enjoy pizza and have a movie night with her family. 

While the life of a principal is indeed demanding and time-consuming, Principal Monroy wouldn’t have it any other way

She enjoys seeing her work make a positive impact on both the lives of her students and educators. By maintaining a personal connection with the academic community, she ensures that the concerns and needs of those who depend on her are sufficiently met. Principal Monroy looks forward to watching her school grow and flourish even more in the coming years. 

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

Kremen grad’s long educational journey leads to governor-appointed job

Being a young mother and working a part-time job wasn’t at all a detriment, but for Dr. Lupe Jaime-Mileham, there was still this awareness that she might not be able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State in the targeted five years. 

Walking in without an appointment, she met with an adviser who helped her unpack classes previously taken at a different university. 

“There was an understanding that I’d probably take a lot longer because it was difficult for me to carry a full-time load. I ended up doing close to over nine years of getting my first degree with Kremen,” said Jaime-Mileham.

Then, taking strides to advance her education, Jaime-Mileham would once again walk through the hallways of the Kremen School when she decided she could make a greater impact in education if she earned an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Throughout her program, she struggled with a sense of belonging due to English not being her first language and coming from a migrant background. The program director at the time, Dr. Ken Magdaleno, became a mentor for her. 

“From my first meeting with her, I was convinced that she would be an honored leader in her chosen field,” said Magdaleno.

Jaime-Mileham was able to bounce her vulnerabilities on him, and she said that having his support was crucial to getting to the finish line. 

Passionate about her work as the senior director of Early Care and Education for the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, she decided to take the next step in her career. Feeling empowered with a doctorate in educational leadership, she applied for the California Department of Social Services’ brand new Child Care and Development Division. After a series of interviews, Jaime-Mileham was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate-confirmed as the deputy director of the Child Care and Development Division.

She’d realize that the position would offer her the opportunity to bring not only her unique voice and upbringing, but also “that Central Valley lens,” to her work.

When asked about her goal for the next year, Jaime-Mileham hopes that the record-breaking investments to the department are a testament to what this current administration and legislators are trying to bring forth. 

“My hope is to ensure that every family has access to quality services across the state — whether it’s our smallest rural community in the Central Valley. Quality efforts including both linguistically and culturally appropriate practices, where we’re honoring families’ home language and supporting our early childhood workforce.”

When reflecting on her position as deputy director and her education at Fresno State, Jaime-Mileham is drawn to the uniqueness of the Kremen School’s graduate programs, in particular the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education program. 

“The Kremen School has always been one of the leaders on the forefront of early childhood education and not only having that unique masters in early childhood, which is unheard of across the state, but also having great professors who are able to prepare this workforce that is going to work with our very youngest learners. I continue to see Kremen champion that work and continue to support the workforce,” she said.

Like Jaime-Mileham and countless other graduates who are agents of change in our community, the Kremen School is dedicated to preparing credible and relevant leaders committed to advancing equity and excellence in education.

(Written by Devon Hunt, a creative writing student)

Alumna develops new K-12 resources for teaching Native American histories

Determined to improve the way K-12 students are educated about the histories of Indigenous peoples, Fresno State alumna Marie Casao (Narragansett) has developed new resources for California teachers.

She curated a curriculum for educators who aim to teach about American Indian tribes and their relationships with ecosystems. This list of educational resources is directly tied to the intellectual knowledge of tribal peoples and their environments.

Casao, who completed Fresno State’s curriculum and instruction graduate program and earned a certificate in educational technology, is a Central Valley native and grew up in Lindsay, 60 miles south of Fresno.

While working as a teacher at a Valley elementary school, Casao, a member of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island, said she felt unnerved when she saw first-hand how teachers referenced Indigenous peoples in the past tense and had students dress up as an “Indian” for a day. “We don’t teach about what it is to be Native in a modern society,” Casao said.

After enrolling in the Master of Arts in Education option in curriculum and instruction at Fresno State, Casao met Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver (Blackfeet/Choctaw/Wyandot/Cherokee), director of the American Indian Studies program and assistant professor at Fresno State.

Lee-Oliver assisted Casao with opportunities such as building a virtual learning science curriculum with the Fresno American Indian Health Project. Casao also collaborated with Fresno State’s California Indian Conference, a digital exhibit that celebrates the perseverance and vibrancy of California American Indian cultures.

“Students should be aware of their local history,” Casao said. “This exhibit offers a way for teachers to explore with their students and acknowledge the land they live on.”

According to the National Congress of American Indians, 87% of state history standards do not mention Native American history after 1900. Thus, creating an inaccurate representation of the many tribes, communities, and individuals that are current and active across the nation.

“In the first grade, I remember dressing up as an ‘Indian’ with my little construction paper headdress and all the kids sat down at a long table in the classroom and celebrated what the teacher said was the first Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Wild Garnett (Lemhi Shoshone), assistant professor of special education at Fresno State.

“Most of what was taught about American Indians in school is purely from a European perspective. It is a perspective that ignores our spiritual existence and connection to all things. It ignores our stories, our practices, our connection to the earth, and all the living beings upon it, and ignores how we create and share knowledge.”

As of 2018, only 0.41% of professors in higher education are of American Indian or Alaska Native descent — one of the most underrepresented groups in higher education. Fresno State is home to nine American Indian faculty members, making up 0.60% of the faculty at the University.

As Casao reflects on her time at Fresno State, her heart warms as she remembers the ample support of her faculty. Before enrolling in her master’s program, she met with Dr. Carol Fry Bohlin, Curriculum and Instruction Department chair, and was supported in her desire to infuse Native American Studies into her education.

She also took classes with Dr. Roy Bohlin, professor emeritus, and appreciated his accommodations to customize final projects on her interests in topics such as Native youth and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education.

“Because of all of the support from my professors, I have been able to learn how to become a better researcher, improve my writing skills, learn new teaching strategies, learn new methodologies, technology resources and much more,” Casao said.

After graduating in spring 2021, Casao began working as a program officer for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. She works with pre-college programs and builds curricula to provide schools and teachers across the nation with STEAM resources. “Connecting with people who have very similar missions as me and interacting with Indigenous students is a highlight of this work,” Casao said.

Because of efforts such as Casao’s, teachers across the country are steadily gaining access to more resources on Indigenous education. In 2018, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian launched Native Knowledge 360o, an initiative aiming to improve how Native American history and culture are taught in schools.

Initiatives such as these, in addition to local efforts, are helping teachers incorporate current Native histories into the classroom – working to increase the inclusivity of Indigenous cultures in education.

Meet Sanger Unified’s deputy principal – Samuel Polanco

Fresno State prepares 60% of school administrators across the region.

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development places considerable emphasis on an educator who can function effectively as a leader in a culturally and linguistically diverse society and make a positive difference in the Central Valley.

Our commitment to preparing educational leaders has lead to Fresno State contributing sixty percent of school administrators across the region. Our alumni are leading the valley’s schools as superintendents and principals working to shape the future of our youth.

Samuel Polanco is a an exceptional example of an alumnus dedicated to making a difference.

How are you connected to Central Valley?

I was born at the old Sanger Hospital. Bring raised in Raisin City, California, I attended and graduated from Caruthers High School. I have always been ingrained in rural areas of the Central Valley.

How did your career path lead you to become a deputy principal?

I started by pursuing higher education at Fresno State. I earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and a teaching credential. I then worked as a third- and fourth-grade teacher.

I decided to go back to Fresno State and earn a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration with a preliminary administrative services credential.

After that, I took on new roles. I worked as a curriculum coach, assistant principal, elementary principal and now I am the deputy principal at the Sanger High School West Campus.

Why did Sanger open a new high school?

Sanger Unified’s boundaries encompass about 180 square miles. This not only includes the city of Sanger, but the communities of Centerville, Del Rey, Fairmont, Lone Star, Tivy Valley and portions of the Sunnyside area of metropolitan Fresno. Attendance in the district has continued to grow every year and the district serves about 12,000 students. With a current enrollment of over 3,300, additional space was needed to safely hold high school students.

How did the Preliminary Administrative Services credential and master’s degree in education prepare you for this role?

I enjoyed my time in the graduate program. The team of professors provided great insight on how to view, coach and build curriculum and instruction, culture and student behaviors. I was able to build lasting relationships with my cohort members.

If you are interested in learning more about furthering your education to become a school administrator, click here.

Lizbeth Cortez Villa named undergraduate dean’s medalist

Lizbeth Cortez Villa is a first-generation college student and immigrant who came to the United States in hopes of achieving her parents’ dream – pursuing higher education. She instilled within herself a strong drive to excel in education. Because of this, Villa was able to pursue a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies while working her way through college.

During summer and winter breaks, she would work in the fields and during the semester she found jobs that allowed her to prioritize education. Being dedicated to her education resulted in receiving multiple scholarships which helped make her educational journey possible.

Villa is the oldest sibling in her family. She grew up caring and helping those around her, not only in the home but also in the classroom. “As a young student, most of my teachers paired me off with students who were non-English speakers,” said Villa. “And I would be in charge of translating what we were learning.”

At first Villa enjoyed the opportunity to help her peers but she realized it was jeopardizing her own education. Now that Villa has graduated, she plans to enroll in Fresno State’s Multiple Subject Teaching Credential program to bring awareness into the classroom and better the education system when it comes to working with migrant students who face language barriers.

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Villa became a Scholar in Service with the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. She completed over 640 community service hours, most of which at the Wesley United Methodist Church. At Wesley she worked on many events with the community, doing blood pressure checks, handing out food, and bridging the gap with law enforcement. Now she has been offered a job as a Sunday School teacher at Wesley.

“Her ability to adapt, leadership skills, and self-motivation, prepare her beautifully,” said Mayra Cubos, Wesley Non-Profit Administrator. “I know she will excel in her field and go on to change many lives for the better.”

In addition to being a Scholar in Service, Villa also received the Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist award from the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. She is a distinguished graduate who strives far.

After teaching in the Central Valley, Villa plans to continue her education and earn a master of science degree in counseling and then go on to earn a doctorate in educational leadership.

“My goal is to open a nonprofit organization that will provide support for families and students in the Valley,” said Villa. “I hope to inspire the young minds of our generations and prove to them that we are capable of so much in this world.”

The doctorate, “boils down to showing kids, showing Hispanic kids, that we can achieve at the highest level.”

Written by: Juan Esparza Loera, Vida en el Valle

The journey for the only son of a single mother from Fowler who battled poverty to raise him while he excelled in basketball – but barely kept afloat on his grades – reached a major plateau Friday (May 14) morning when Henry ‘Hank’ Gutiérrez received his doctorate in education at Bulldog Stadium.

He went from entering Fresno State as a special admit through the Educational Opportunities Programs (EOP) to earning a 4.0 GPA and the graduate level dean’s medal from the Kremen School of Education.

“EOP will always be a part of my educational heritage,” said Gutiérrez, a 50-year-old father of two. “I want to thank Fresno State because they took a chance on the right kid.”

Twenty years ago, he earned his master’s at Fresno State.

Gutiérrez, the Fresno County deputy superintendent of educational services, helps provide services for 32 school districts and numerous charter schools that serve almost 198,000 students.

He wants his doctorate to serve as an incentive for kids like him. He remembers very well “standing in line for that long block of cheese with my grandmother or paying for our milk and bread with stamps used as money.”

The doctorate, he said, “boils down to showing kids, showing Hispanic kids, that we can achieve at the highest level.”

“I want to be a role model at the very core of my existence,” said Gutiérrez, a 1988 graduate of Fowler High School where he was a basketball standout and once ran against the vaunted McFarland High cross country teams during their heyday.

“I just want to be a role model to all kids – that particular kid from Fowler where I grew up – to show that no matter how you grew up, no matter your trials and tribulations that education is our key out of poverty.”

Gutiérrez decided to get into education when he became a junior high basketball coach.

“I really fell in love with the interaction with kids,” he said. “I really thought my path would evolve into some sort of leadership role and leadership capacity with kids.”

Being raised without a father probably made Gutiérrez take a liking to providing coaching and teaching lessons to children that he never got at home from a dad.

Coaching Experience Motivated Him to Get Into Education

“I told myself that if I wanted to continue coaching basketball, I probably should pursue a teaching credential so that I can really stay involved in the educational system,” said Gutiérrez, who has served as principal of Fowler High and later Washington Union.

His first teaching job was at Lane Elementary. His first administrative position came in 1999 when Sunnyside High opened.

In 2014, he was honored as the Fresno County administrator of the year when he was at Fowler. Leaving his alma mater for Washington Union was difficult, but it was part of his plan to build his leadership skills.

The two-decade break between his master’s and doctorate degrees also allowed him to build up his leadership skills.

“I just immersed in all kinds of leadership experiences and life experiences that really prepared me to take that leap of faith to get into the doctoral program,” said Gutiérrez. “It really made the rigor of the program and the focus for me that much easier.”

The doctorate (his thesis was ‘The Enactment of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: A Case Study of One Elementary School’) should open more opportunities for him in education.

“I’m just learning how to lead an organization, and I’m happy leading and assisting,” he said about his current job. “I don’t know what my future holds. Only time will tell, but I know that with this doctoral degree I’m better equipped.

“I put myself in the driver’s seat for any leadership role that I aspire to.”

Jim Yovino, the elected superintendent in Fresno County, first met Gutiérrez when he was principal at Fowler High.

“There was something special about him,” said Yovino. “It’s that quality to get people to move in a direction that’s going to help kids and families.”

Yovino praised Gutiérrez’s confidence while remaining kind and compassionate.

“That’s really hard to do, and he does it really well,” said Yovino, who hired Gutiérrez as an assistant superintendent and about a year ago elevated him to the deputy superintendent position.

“I’m just incredibly proud of him,” said Yovino. “I just think he’s got all the right qualities a leader should have.”

Mother, Wife Have Influenced Him

Gutiérrez, in previous interviews and in public appearances, has mentioned the critical role that his mother, Henrietta, played in his life.

He remembers graduating from Fresno State in 1993 and spotting his mother in the audience.

“I still remember that moment, walking into Bulldog Stadium and finding her in the crowd. I saw her standing up,” he said in 2014. “That type of emotion she had drives you to keep on reaching for the next successful eclipse in your life.

“My accomplishments were a testament to what her aspirations for herself were, but maybe she didn’t have the means because she was raising me. I need to achieve these goals because I’m kind of living for my mother and myself at the same time.”

His wife, Lisa, a financial consultant, has kept him motivated. Gutiérrez compares her to what Mary Castro is to CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro.

“She’s my First Lady,” he said.

In his dissertation, he praises her support.

“You inspired me to be brave and conquer this dream. I simply could not have finished this dissertation and the entire program without your sacrifice, love, and support,” he wrote. “My life’s dreams and future goals are centered around you and for you. Together, we can do anything and we “always win!”

The late Justin Garza – the Central High football coach whose name will grace that district’s newest high school – introduced Gutiérrez to her.

Gutiérrez remains a big fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and of superstar Michael Jordan. As a 6-foot-3 center at Fowler, he led the Redcats to the Valley finals before they lost to Immanuel.

He received an email from the dean of the School of Education notifying him of the dean’s medal.

“When I first read the email, I had to leave a few times and make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was like a moment frozen in time where I realized all my hard work had been recognized.”

From dad and mom’s school to law school; grad carves his own path

Written by: BoNhia Lee, Fresno State News

Misty Her remembers walking her son Ryan, then only 2 years old, from their apartment across the street from Fresno State toward the Kremen Education Building to meet her husband after he finished class. 

She told Ryan that he could attend Fresno State someday.

She and her husband, Phong Yang, met at the University. She earned a degree in liberal studies. He earned a French degree. They got married, started a family and supported each other through master’s programs also at Fresno State — Her in school supervision and administration while Yang studied linguistics.

Fresno State was the obvious choice when it was time for Ryan to choose a college, he said. It was close to home, it has a good reputation and he could catch a ride with his dad, who works at the University. 

While their Fresno State ties are strong, Ryan’s parents insist they never pressured him to become a Bulldog. Yang, now director of admissions and recruitment at Fresno State, jokes that he would have been the first to recruit his son. But their children, including daughter Grace who is a Fresno State sophomore, and youngest son Gabriel, a fifth-grader in the Fresno Unified School District, have the opportunity to go anywhere and discover themselves, their parents said. 

Ryan graduates Fresno State in May with a degree in political science and a minor in philosophy. In the fall, he heads to the University of Nebraska for law school with a goal of working for an organization where he can defend First Amendment rights. 

“These last two years went by really fast,” Ryan said. “I’m very excited to be graduating, particularly because I’ve been accepted to law school where the stuff I want to learn and what I want to work in will be at. Let me go, already!”

For Her, she still sees little Ryan. 

 “I feel like I just brought him home. I still see him as this little boy. I can’t believe that he’s graduating,” she said. “He’s worked really hard. He said, ‘I’m going to go and finish in four years’ and before you know it, four years is already here.”

Ryan grew up in his mom’s Fresno Unified classrooms watching her decorate the boards on the wall for her students. Then he watched her climb through the administration ranks to her current post as the district’s deputy superintendent. 

Read more.