In celebration of teacher appreciation week, SOE honored two alumnae with the Excellence in Education Alumni Awards at an intimate reception at The Barn. This awards program, now in its second year, honors alumni currently on faculty at a K-12 school who, in alignment with SOE’s mission, are committed to advancing equitable educational systems and practices in their K-12 work.
Andrea Zambrano and Alejandra Sanchez were nominated by colleagues, and selected by a panel that included Interim Dean Louie Rodriguez, Interim Assistant Dean and Director of Teacher Education Dr. Frances Valdovinos, SOE Community Advisory Board Member and educator at Corona Norco Unified School District Dr. Sussan Ortega, and Dr. Will Greer, SOE Community Advisory Board Member and Director of Equity and Targeted Student Achievement at San Bernardino City Unified School District
“I am honored to recognize two alumnae today who truly embody the mission of SOE to advance equitable educational systems and practices, Alejandra Sanchez and Andrea Zambrano,” said Interim Dean Louie Rodriguez as he welcomed attendees to the celebration. Rodriguez went on to share excerpts of their nomination letters as he presented them with their awards.
Alejandra Sanchez, a 5th grade teacher at Seneca Elementary School, was nominated by fellow teacher and last year’s award recipient, Jennifer Covington.
A Mexican American immigrant, and undocumented student unable to qualify for federal financial aid, Alejandra says that she struggled financially while initially pursuing her bachelor’s degree at UCR after transferring from Riverside Community College. She ended up taking time off to earn money for school, and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, San Bernardino with the financial assistance of the DREAMER grant, a financial award available for undocumented students. She realized teaching was her calling when she began substitute teaching and earned her Master’s plus teaching credential from SOE.
“In alignment with the SOE’s pillars, Alejandra has created a student-centered and supportive learning environment. She promotes structures of opportunity, rewarding students for effort. She is also intentional about building relationships with parents and caregivers, recognizing that these trusted adults are her 'partners for cultivating an inclusive, intentional, and supportive learning environment',” said Rodriguez, sharing parts of the nomination, as he presented her with her award.
Andrea Zambrano, a 6th grade dual language immersion teacher at Stone Avenue Elementary, was nominated by her colleague and SOE Community Advisory Board Member Martha Gomez.
Andrea says her driving force as an educator is to service her diverse community, and to connect students and families to services that further develop cultural, linguistic, and academic needs. She’s an advocate for early inclusion and identification of gifted students and is currently a GATE coordinator in her district. She received her bacherlor’s in liberal studies and Master’s plus teaching credential from SOE. She continues to work with the university by coaching and supporting the teachers of tomorrow.
“Andrea inspires her students to develop a sense of collective ownership and humanizing engagement in the face of injusticias in their communities. In fact, after one of her students, Beatriz, returned from a trip to Mexico where she witnessed the injusticia faced by lower-income individuals in public hostels, Beatriz was inspired to launch a fundraising effort to provide basic essentials for the community. Of this story, Martha wrote how this is an example of the educator that Ms. Zambrano is. She actively encourages and supports her students to be the leaders of change our society needs,” Rodriguez shared from her nomination.
At the ceremony, the honorees received an SOE crystal award and a $250 gift card in recognition of their efforts.