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Young grade school children learning in a classroom.

A Classroom Homecoming

UCSB supporters help educators learn and teach

Eighty-six percent of California school districts expect a teacher shortage in the coming years. At the same time, 58% of districts plan to expand bilingual education. How do schools recruit more teachers, especially those who reflect students and their families? With support from the James S. Bower Foundation and a handful of key supporters including the Helen and Will Webster Foundation, four aspiring teachers will enter classrooms in their hometown of Santa Barbara after graduating from UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education (GGSE).   

GGSE prepares leading educators in the service of diversity and democracy. UC Santa Barbara has the faculty and infrastructure not only to train teachers but also to conduct greatly needed research on education models. Acclaimed clinics and centers including the California Dropout Research Project, the Koegel Autism Center and the UC-wide California Teacher Education Research Improvement Network thrive at GGSE. 

As part of the school’s mission to foster an equitable workforce led by teachers who represent California’s children, GGSE has partnered with the Santa Barbara Unified Program for Effective Access to College (PEAC) to support four first-generation college graduates working to become teachers. 

“The PEAC Fellowship embodies the mission of GGSE, for it stresses the important role that education plays in helping to build an increasingly diverse democratic society,” said Jeffrey Milem, dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. “Our candidates commit to an intensive 13-month program with teaching placements during the day and graduate classes at night. Donors are crucial in helping those who might not be able to attend GGSE get a first-class education without incurring debt.”

Evely Jimenez ’20, Monica Rojas ’20, Alejandrina Lorenzano ’20 and Maria Lorenzano ’20 are the first to receive PEAC Community Fellowships for Education. 

The fellowship includes a provisional job offer from the Santa Barbara Unified School District and full funding to attend GGSE thanks to the generosity of donors. With a debt-free credential and a guaranteed job in their hometown, the fellows are poised for success. This program extends the K-12 PEAC initiative that supports underrepresented students with early childhood education, family engagement, and school and college readiness. 

The fellows’ Santa Barbara roots run deep. Monica recalls working in classrooms alongside teachers who taught her as a child. Twins Alejandrina and Maria Lorenzano are excited to pay forward the help they received in grade school. Evely remembers the power of educators who believe in a student’s whole family, like the kindergarten teacher who set her on this path. 

“PEAC shows you the differences you can make as an educator,” said Evely, who went through the program as a child. “I have an opportunity to break cycles and be a model for students who share my background.”

In fall 2020, Evely will start her career as a teacher — and role model — in a Santa Barbara classroom. This homecoming is part of the Bower Foundation’s vision. The foundation is a longtime supporter of PEAC in grade schools. Now, when successful PEAC graduates want to become teachers in their hometown, there’s a clear path. 

“We are excited to be part of this next step of the PEAC journey,” said Jon Clark, president of the Bower Foundation. “I believe that having PEAC graduates back in the classroom as teachers will make a meaningful difference for students year after year.”

Evely, Monica, Alejandrina and Maria will soon return to local schools, bringing their journey full circle as they care for and connect with the next generation. By educating diverse and resilient teachers, GGSE bolsters California’s education workforce for the future.