Alumni Honored With Excellence in Education Award

Thank you to SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union  for sponsoring SOE’s Alumni Awards and ceremony.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, the School of Education held an awards ceremony to honor three outstanding alumni award recipients. The awardees were chosen because of their commitment to advancing equitable educational systems and practices.

On May 8th, Dean Joi A. Spencer co-presented the alumni with their awards along with Tiffany Diaz, Membership Development Specialist from SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. Dean Spencer and Tiffany presented the awards to a graduate program alumnus, a credential alumnus on faculty at a secondary school, and a teacher credential alumnus on faculty at an elementary school.

The 2023 alumni award recipients are Nallely Arteaga, Ph.D. ‘20, Lesly Monsalve, M.A. ‘21, and Rachael Bedolla, M.A. ‘09. These three outstanding alumni are all educational leaders who put their students first and work hard to cultivate student-centered, inclusive, intentional, and supportive learning environments.

Read the Q&A’s below to learn more about these outstanding SOE alumni. 


Nallely Arteaga

Nallely Arteaga, Ph.D. ‘20 is an Assistant Professor in the Teacher Education Department in the College of Education at CSU Dominguez Hills. She also serves as the graduate program director for the Dual Language Learning pathways. In 2020, she earned a Ph.D. in Education from UC Riverside. Dr. Arteaga is a former continuation high school teacher and is a proud first-generation Latina and daughter of immigrant parents. 
Q: How did the SOE’s Doctoral Program help shape you into a critically-thinking, compassionate, and social justice focused professor?

A:The Education, Society, and Culture Doctoral Program at UCR really allowed me to grow and start seeing myself as a teacher-scholar and then a professor. When I started the program, I was teaching at a continuation high school where Black and Brown students were pushed out of traditional education systems. I wanted to write and frame my research through the lens of my positionality as a teacher, and the doctoral program guided me into the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that I needed to use and describe to challenge unjust and inequitable school policies and practices.

Q: How do you create a supportive learning environment for you students and colleagues at California State University, Dominguez Hills?

A: As a first-generation Latina, I try to remember the educational barriers that existed for me as a student. I remember the many challenges that became roadblocks in my educational journey. I hold on to these experiences, because it is very likely that many of my students at CSUDH are struggling with similar challenges. If there is ever anything in my power that I can do to alleviate any of those hardships, I do my best to support students. In my classrooms, I embrace teaching through pedagogies that are humanizing, critical, and culturally sustaining. I center learning and collaboration with students through a heritage language learning focus that is accepting of translanguaging practices.

Q: Your award nominator, JoeAnn Nguyen, mentioned that you teach in one of the first CA programs to offer a bilingual credential entirely in Spanish and the only professional development program for bilingual teachers. Can you tell us more about what prompted you to focus your work on the bilingual community?

A: At CSUDH, I serve as the program director for our Dual Language Learning pathways. I was prompted to serve in this role because as a former high school teacher, I understand the needs that exist within our emergent bilingual student population. In a state like California, where so many languages are spoken in and out of our K-12 classrooms, there is a great need for teachers that can specifically support students in their home languages. At CSUDH, we aim to prepare teachers who are bilingual or multilingual to earn their bilingual authorization. We currently offer it in Spanish, but we are also working on our Korean pathway. For teachers who already hold a bilingual authorization, we also offer justice and equity focused professional development- completely in Spanish, to continue to foster their growth in a pluralistic society. 


Lesly Monsalve

Lesly Monsalve, M.A. ‘21 is currently an English teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. She is a proud first generation Latina from Boyle Heights who graduated from UCR's School of Education, Class of 2021. She obtained her Master's in General Education and an English Credential, as well as being a part of the Teacher Education Program's first Ethnic Studies Pathway cohort. Lesly believes in providing critical spaces where students feel empowered to become agents of change in their communities and in our society. 

Q: How do you create a supportive learning environment for you students at Roosevelt High School?

A: When I took a class with Dr. Louie Rodriguez, he taught me the idea that students walk into the classroom with their culture, families, and community. Seeing students for the assets and strengths they have been instilled with from grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, caregivers, and community members proves that I am not their first teacher but only one of many. I see all my students as coming from communities of greatness and capable of achieving success, even when they might not believe that about themselves. We, as educators, cannot expect students to only be students in the classroom. We have to remember that these teens have experiences from the 14-18 years of their life which have shaped them into the people they are becoming. When students walk into my classroom, I say their names, ask them about life outside of the classroom. When they move onto the next grade, I continue to welcome them into my classroom to share how the new school year is going. I know when my students are tired and need to check-in with the stress that is school so I always make it a point to pause and address their physical and mental needs before we continue the lesson. 

Q: How did the Undergrad and Teacher Education Program help shape you into a critically-thinking, compassionate, and social justice focused teacher? 

A: The education classes taught by professors at UCR truly helped me develop my critical-thinking skills. I remember learning about concepts like Dr. Yosso’ community cultural wealth (2005) that taught me that my neighborhood, community, and culture was rich in history and that I came from a legacy of resistance. Having professors that helped me realize that my voice and experience as a first-generation low-income student from East LA could help me connect with future students who may come from a similar background was revolutionary in my journey in becoming a teacher. I hadn’t realized that becoming a teacher didn’t mean I have to leave my personality and culture at the door but instead allowing myself to bring where I come from into my classroom became a vital part of my identity as a teacher. 
UCR SOE’s education classes helped shape me into a social justice focused teacher because the discussions that were happening in my education classes was something all students deserved, not just those who would decide to go to college. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to help K-12 students, in particular students of Color, learn to have pride in their culture and also help them believe that they can change our inequitable system for the better. 

Q: Is there any one person at UCR’s School of Education that made a lasting impact on you? 

A: Dr. Rita Kohli. I remember taking her education course my last year of undergrad and learning of concepts such as the myth of meritocracy, microaggressions, and interest convergence all of which were truths in our society that no one had taught me about before. I remember feeling as if a veil had been removed from my eyes, but also frustrated that in my K-12 education, I had never been taught the name of things that I had experienced growing up. Dr. Kohli helped me name my experiences for what they were. Thanks to Dr. Kohli, I will continue to develop my racial literacy skills and continue to not be afraid to talk about issues of race and racism in my classroom. As I continue my journey in becoming an educator committed to racial and social justice, Dr. Kohli’s impact will always be with me.


Rachael Bedolla

Rachael Bedolla, M.A. ‘09 is a first generation college graduate who earned her Bachelor’s Degree from UCR in 2008 summa cum laude and went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Education and Teaching Credential in 2009 summa cum laude at UCR’s Graduate School of Education. She has been a teacher in the Moreno Valley Unified School District for her entire teaching career and has spent the last eight years teaching at Cloverdale Elementary School where she was once a student teacher. 

Q: Your classroom mantra is beautiful. How did you come up with it?

A: “We do the right thing, even when no one is watching, because it’s the right thing to do” has been my classroom mantra since my first year of teaching in 2009. One of my District Cooperating Teachers from my student-teaching days used to remind the class that they should “do the right thing even when no one is watching.” This statement was incredibly powerful and I knew I wanted to use it in my own classroom when the time came. However, I felt the need to include the “why.” Why should anyone do the right thing, especially when no one is watching? The answer is simple…because it’s the right thing to do.

Q: How do you create a supportive learning environment for you and your students at Cloverdale Elementary School?

A: Creating and maintaining a supportive learning environment is all about building trusting relationships with my kids. I refer to our class as our “class family” and I mean just that. I emphasize our need to support one another, celebrate our differences, cheer each other on, and work towards the greater good for us all.
In my classroom, students learn and practice respecting others and their belongings, being accountable for their own actions, and they work hard to meet the high expectations and goals we have set together. My kiddos know I love them and value each of them for their individual qualities. With that in mind, they strive alongside me to
make our time together meaningful.

Q: Is there any one person or professor at UCR’s School of Education that made a lasting impact on you? Why?

A: My supervisor for student-teaching, instructor, and now friend, Karen Dodson was a
huge support during my time as a graduate student in the M.Ed. program. She offered
guidance, feedback, and exemplified good teaching.

For the past four years, I have been a District Cooperating Teacher for SOE’s student
teachers with Karen Dodson as their supervisor. I feel honored to give back to the same
educational institution that gave me so much. I’m thankful to Karen for being my mentor
and now giving me the opportunity to mentor other teachers in the making.

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