Jeanette Vázquez (MA ’14) knows all about the value of a quality public education. The daughter of hard-working immigrants, Vázquez grew up in Fullerton, California, and went on to become a first-generation college student when she enrolled at Cypress College, where she was elected student body president. After graduating from UC Berkeley and advocating for working families as an AmeriCorps Fellow, she enrolled at the LMU School of Education, earning her teaching credential and master’s degree through the LMU/Teach For America Partnership program.
But Vázquez, now a sixth-grade teacher at Ponderosa Elementary in Anaheim, California, also knows that too many children are not receiving the same benefits from education that she did. So, drawing on the social justice framework she learned at SOE, Vázquez decided to run for the Fullerton School Board, determined to transform education in the community where she was raised and continues to live. She was elected in November 2016 and is the only active teacher currently serving on the board.
“I ran because I believe education can be a gateway to opportunity that can bridge many gaps, but we have to do better,” Vázquez said. “Fullerton is an urban district with a great deal of diversity and, unfortunately, the same types of inequities that persist in large cities such as Los Angeles. Growing up I saw kids dropping out as early as middle school. Many of my friends were not able to attain higher education, and as a result did not have access to good-paying jobs. What I am trying to bring to the board is a conversation that views education in our district through an equity lens, acknowledging where the gaps are and taking concrete measures to give all of our teachers and students the support they need to reach their full potential.”
Vázquez’s own educational lens was developed at SOE, where the emphasis on social justice and developing the whole child gave her a perspective that continues to inform her work, both in the classroom and on the school board. Looking back at her time at SOE, Vázquez believes she benefited from faculty mentors whose on-the-ground experience enabled them to better connect the theory they were teaching with real-world practice. Vázquez also continues to be inspired by colleagues who were SOE classmates, and by her principal at Ponderosa Elementary — Yadira Moreno, who is currently enrolled in SOE’s doctoral program.
Noting that SOE is celebrating its 25th anniversary, Vázquez said: “LMU has fostered a space for preparing leaders in education who will impact lives throughout California and across the nation. I’m excited to see the impact SOE’s great programs will have on our kids in the years to come.”