Teacher Appreciation: Honoring Those Who Help Mentor and Shape the Future of Academia.

Educators work tirelessly to ensure the success and well-being of the next generation of students by guiding them through the rough waters of academic life. Kremen recognizes this immense contribution and to show their support, they have launched a donation program starting Tuesday, January 11th, where they will be honoring their “Mentor Teachers” who have taken time to work with several credential candidates over the past semester.

Kremen partners with over 20 district partners every semester to place their single subject, education specialist, and multiple subject credential candidates. To give back, they have created a “Mentor Teacher Appreciation Gift Bag” which includes 450 $5 gift cards from Dutch Bro’s (a generous donation amounting in a total value of $2,250), a Mentor-Teacher Self Care Brochure, an assortment of Fresno State items such as business cards, lanyards, pens, sticky pads, as well as, a Thank You Letter with a small bag of candy attached to the note. These gift bags are a way to help mentor teachers know how special they are to everyone that is associated with Kremen and to the student’s whose lives have been impacted by their kindness and generosity.

Some of the key members involved with this kind-hearted initiative include Dean Yerrick,  Jenelle Pitt Parker, Juliet Wahleithner, and Felipe Mercado, with generous support from Bonnie Inthisane and Navneet Kaur who assisted with the assembly of the gift bags. In order to calculate the proper amount of Mentor Teacher Appreciation Bags, the Kremen Department evaluated the amount of fall placements to see how many mentor teachers resided in each district. The total amount of bags equated to 450 after calculation, Clovis and Fresno receiving the most, 105 bags split between the two, with Visalia following, along with Coalinga, Porterville, Cowchilla, Madera and many others. The outreach effort spanned the entire South Valley, covering counties both large and small.

This initiative was launched in the hopes of reinvigorating mentor teachers and encouraging new ones, especially during difficult times of the year. Dean Yerrick and Felipe Mercado will be personally handing out the vast majority of these gift bags to their assigned recipients. When the districts heard of this upcoming donation, they were extremely thankful, their hearts warming as they realized just how appreciated they are by the Kremen community.

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

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.

Graduate students talk “Top 5 Issues” with superintendents

TOP 5 ISSUES

insight from local school leaders

Dean’s Leadership Advisory Council Meets Kremen Graduate Students To Talk Issues

On September 8, leading school district Superintendents from across the region will gather online to share with Kremen graduate students trends and issues worthy of research in today’s school context. Students are encouraged to login and listen to ways leaders are framing today’s challenges and positing new questions to be addressed as we emerge from a COVID era of online teaching.

When: September 8, 2021
Where:
Zoom Meeting ID: 685 015 6630
Zoom URL: https://fresnostate.zoom.us/j/6850156630
Time: 1 – 2 pm
(Time will be allotted at the end for student questions and answers.)

Following the presentation, Kremen students will remain online to discuss next steps, research appropriate methodology, partnership and other relevant matters regarding inter-institutional research.

Superintendents Leading the Valley

Meet our valley’s educational leaders and gain insight on regional issues.

John Campbell, Superintendent
Kings Canyon Unified School District

John Campbell earned a bachelor’s degree in History, Single Subject Teaching Credential, Administrative Services Credential and master’s degree in Education, here at Fresno State. Dedicated to education, he has been serving as Superintendent of Kings Canyons Unified since 2017.

Andy Di Meo, Administrator, Human Resources Development
Visalia Unified School District

Andy Di Meo is no stranger to Fresno State. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, Administrative Services Credential and master’s degree in Education right here in Fresno. Di Meo currently serves as an administrator for the Human Resources Department at Visalia Unified.

Adela Jones, Superintendent
Sanger Unified School District

Adela Jones began teaching in 1984 and shortly after began teaching in Sanger Unified. After holding multiple roles within the district, she has now been serving the district as Superintendent for three years. Jones is also a Fresno State graduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and an Administrative Services Credential as a bulldog.

Todd Lile, Superintendent
Madera Unified School District

Todd Lile began working in education as a special education paraprofessional in Madera Unified and then taught for thirteen years. After pursuing higher education, Lile traveled globally with his wife. When he came back to the Central Valley, he held multiple roles in Madera Unified; Vice Principal, Principal, Chief Academic Officer and now Superintendent.

Bob Nelson, Superintendent
Fresno Unified School  District

Bob Nelson became Fresno Unified’s Superintendent in 2017. Prior to his appointment, Nelson served Fresno Unified for over 23 years, holding various roles including teacher, Vice Principal, Principal, Human Resources Administrator and Chief of Staff. His roots are deep with Fresno State. He is a bulldog alumnus and earned his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, master’s degree in Education, and Administrative Services Credential at Fresno State.

Eimear O’Farrell, Superintendent
Clovis Unified School District

Eimear O’Farrell, the Ireland native, has worked in education for almost forty years. She first came to the United States in 1993 and fell in love with teaching her elementary class in Fresno. She then taught in both Fresno Unified and Clovis Unified schools. Today, she has served Clovis Unified as its Superintendent for four years.

Lindsay Sanders, Chief of Equity and Access
Fresno Unified School District

Lindsay Sanders has worked for Fresno Unified for over twenty years. She held roles as a teacher, volleyball coach, Head Counselor, Vice Principal, Principal, and since 2018, she has served as Chief of Equity and Access. Sanders pursued her education at Fresno State and graduated with a Single Subject Teaching Credential, Administrative Services Credential and a master’s degree in Education.

Wesley Sever, Superintendent
Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District

Wesley Sever has proudly served as Superintendent in Kingsburg since 2012. Sever will forever be a Bulldog. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fresno State in addition to a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision, Administrative Services Credential, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Dedi Somavia, Assistant Superintendent
Visalia Unified School District  

Debi Somavia has been an educator for 24 years; she has served Visalia Unified for the last 20 years in a variety of roles including Administrator of Human Resources, Elementary School Principal, Assistant Principal, Curriculum Coach and an elementary school teacher. Somavia holds a master’s degree in Education, a Reading Specialist Credential, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and an Administrative Services Credential from Fresno State.

Resources for world language teachers across the globe

When Jorge Morales immigrated to the United States from Jalisco, Mexico at age 9, he struggled with culture shock, assimilation to a new life and learning English. He remembers seeing other English learners struggling in school and wishing there were more helpful programs in place.

As Morales grew up, he realized he wanted to help students who are experiencing similar struggles. So he decided to become a teacher.

After graduating from Fresno State with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Spanish teaching credential, he started teaching Spanish at Sunnyside High School in Fresno.

In 2016, Morales’ second year at Sunnyside, he was eager to find ways to be more effective, and he was inspired by the veteran teachers around him. He learned of workshops offered by the Central California World Language Project at Fresno State and decided to sign up.

World Language Workshops for Teachers

The project is part of a statewide initiative to improve access to high-quality world language instruction for K-12 educators. Both student teachers and experienced teachers are able to use resources and take them into their classrooms. Housed in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State, the project is positioned to provide targeted support for the needs of the Valley’s future teachers, including for those who speak Spanish or Hmong languages.

“Teachers learn and leave with strategies, ready to be implemented into the classroom,” said Nancy Perez, project director. “And that’s what makes the project interesting and appealing to teachers, because they come, they learn and they practice.”

The project is not just for world language teachers but provides resources for all teachers. Since the project started in 2014, it has trained and supported over 1,000 teachers.

Historically, workshops were hosted in person, but COVID-19 has shifted the workshops to virtual. The project is offering over 30 free online workshops from July 27 through March 12.

Read more.

Student-athletes make lasting impact on Valley’s youth

Fresno State women’s soccer player Kayla King is driven to help others — and she has shown it throughout her college years. 

When she started her postsecondary education, she began working as a tutor for school-aged children. Tutoring came naturally to King and created an opportunity for her to work directly with children.

While earning a degree in liberal studies at Fresno State, King excelled at juggling both academics and athletics.

“Being a student-athlete really teaches you a lot about, not only yourself, but how important managing your time is,” said King, a Hollister native. “It teaches you great life lessons that people end up taking with them for the remainder of their lives.” 

Being a student-athlete provided King with a variety of opportunities to partner in the community. In April, King and other student-athletes spoke virtually at a College and Career Day at Wawona K-8 School in Fresno Unified School District. This annual event encourages students to think about their future and what opportunities lie ahead.

“We want local heroes for our kids,” said Bob Nelson, superintendent of Fresno Unified. “We want our kids to see student-athletes who came from their neighborhood and who will inspire them.”

At the College and Career Day, King connected with 15 seventh and eighth graders and shared her story of how she became an athlete. She remembers them asking many questions about what it’s like to be a student-athlete. 

Fresno State is fully immersed in the community and continues to find ways for increased collaboration. In just one year, student-athletes volunteered 4,000 community service hours at 460 organizations. In addition to serving the community, the athletics department had a collective 3.30 GPA in spring 2020. This marked the 19th consecutive semester of over a 3.0 departmental GPA. 

“We’re always looking for opportunities to impact our community, and specifically the youth in our community, in a positive manner,” said Terry Tumey, Fresno State’s director of athletics.

With over 6,000 new undergraduate students overall enrolled in fall 2020, 52 percent are from Fresno County. 

“Our staff, coaches and student-athletes understand the important platform we have, and we all collectively consider it an honor to give back and inspire the next generation of Bulldogs and leaders in our Valley,” Tumey said. “Partnering with local school districts to help encourage the importance of education is a privilege for us.”

Bulldog Buddies

Kendall Boliba, a Fresno State athletics academic adviser, grew up as an athlete and remembers engaging with the community in a pen pal project when she was younger. The program was impactful for her, and she wanted to create something similar in the Valley. 

In fall 2019, Boliba partnered with Prince Marshall, then principal of West Fresno Elementary School in Washington Unified School District. She pitched the idea of creating a pen pal program with Fresno State student-athletes. 

With support from Marshall and West Fresno Elementary teachers, Boliba organized for the women’s water polo team to become pen pals with a second-grade class in 2019. She called it the Bulldogs Buddy program. 

This program was powerful for West Fresno Elementary, not only by directly connecting students to collegiate athletes but also by positively reinforcing the power of reading and writing.

According to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (2019), 53% of third-grade students in Fresno County didn’t meet the ELA/Literacy standards. And 83% of West Fresno Elementary third graders didn’t meet the standards.

West Fresno Elementary worked the Bulldogs Buddy program into its curriculum. The second graders wrote back-and-forth with their Fresno State pen pals and worked on incorporating open-ended questions and weekly writing prompts. Marshall said he saw a direct impact on the students’ eagerness to read and write.

“Writing is one of the most difficult tasks for our students, especially second-language learners,” said Beth Liberta, second-grade teacher at West Fresno Elementary. “When we write narratives, informational or persuasive stories the students struggle to develop proper sentences and those sentences are often very short and without details. However, when my students write to their Fresno State Buddies, their sentences are endless and so full of life.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily paused the program, Boliba plans to expand the Bulldogs Buddy program across multiple school districts in the Central Valley.

While this program provides a way for Fresno State student-athletes of any major to engage with and positively impact Valley youth, some decide to make a career out of teaching.

After King graduated with her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, she immediately enrolled in Fresno State’s early childhood education graduate program. She is eager to get into the classroom and begin directly impacting Valley youth. She hopes to become an elementary school teacher and one day work with students with special needs.

Partnering with educational leaders across the valley

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development has grown long-lasting partnerships with school districts throughout the Central Valley. In close collaboration with these partners, Fresno State annually prepares and nurtures one of the largest cadre of teachers in all of California and also trains and supports sixty percent of the region’s school superintendents and educational leaders. With a return rate of eighty percent of all Fresno State’s graduates returning to the region to live and to work, more than 3 of 4 teachers in the Valley have their degrees from the Kremen School.  

In the interest of improving collaboration, several superintendents from across the Valley connected for their first in-person P12 Educational Leadership Superintendent’s Advisory Council meeting. After 16 long months of COVID restrictions, it was a refreshing time to reconnect and revive interests in new projects, programming and protocols for the re-opening of the state.

Pictured above:

  • Dean Randy Yerrick, Kremen School of Education and Human Development
  • Superintendent Todd Lile, Madera Unified School District
  • Superintendent Bob Nelson, Fresno Unified School District
  • Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell, Clovis Unified School District
  • Superintendent John Campbell, Kings Canyon Unified School District
  • Superintendent Wesley Sever, Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District
  • Assistant Professor Jessica Hannigan, Department of Educational Leadership at Fresno State

“The goal of the P12 Educational Leadership Superintendent’s Advisory Council is to join together P12 and higher education partners to collectively invest in the success of all educators,” said Jessica Hannigan, assistant professor of educational leadership and P12 program coordinator. “This advisory council is a needed feedback loop to Kremen and a platform initiated by the Dean to strengthen our relationships and enhance partnerships with local districts. Most importantly, Kremen seeks input from our stakeholders to obtain feedback for continuous system and program improvement.”  

We rely on our P12 partners for placement and collaborative support of counselors, teachers, and educational leaders and our P12 partners rely on our efforts to remain up-to-date, relevant and in touch with new developments in the state and nationally. Our P12 Educational Leadership and Administration certificate and degree are core components in their preparation.

The meeting, led by Dean Yerrick, began with a reading of an educator’s message gifted on a medallion by President Jiménez-Sandoval.

To boldly educate and empower students for success.

The purpose of partnerships is for the success of students. Our partners are making extraordinary strides in education. In attendance represented four California distinguished school district honorees, the third-largest school district in the state and one of eight charter elementary schools in the state. These partnerships have enhanced our teacher preparation programs and provided tools to translate theoretical learning to practical needs.

Having a strong bond with partners opens doors to endless opportunities.

Liberal Studies student named University Volunteer of the Year

Written by: BoNhia Lee, Fresno State News

Ariel Mendez, a graduate student majoring in liberal studies, was awarded the 2021 University Volunteer of the Year Award. The award, which includes a $1,500 scholarship, is given each year to a student who has made a difference in the community through their time and talent. Mendez has volunteered more than 480 hours over the past year.

After learning that California has one of the largest homeless populations, and identifying other states with high homeless populations, Mendez was eager and passionate about finding a way to help. Starting in her hometown of Tulare, Mendez began handing out donated clothing she collected from family and friends to the homeless. Then, she drove to five states in five days handing out the remaining clothes. At the beginning of 2020, Mendez drove to over 10 states in 12 days giving out more donated items and things that she purchased herself.

When the pandemic hit, Mendez shifted her efforts to create COVID-19 relief packages with food, water, hygiene supplies, journals, blankets and clothing. She also baked over 400 cookies for the homeless in Fresno.

Her efforts did not stop there. Knowing that farmworkers were deemed essential and working to provide food to the Valley and beyond during the pandemic, Mendez drove to Farmersville, Exeter and Tulare County and donated Gatorade and water to farmworkers. Mendez donated over 1,500 meals and over 2,000 hygiene and essential care products to homeless families and essential workers. She keeps a basket of food, water, and hygiene supplies in her trunk so that she can help anyone in need.

Read more.