Teacher Spotlight

Imelda Donato: Stockton School for Adults

Hello, my name is Imelda Donato. I am one of five children in my family. I am the first to have graduated and have gone to college. I am an Adult Education Counselor at Stockton School for Adults. So, how did I get here? I would like to share my story with you. But please bear with me as my journey like those of many others had road blocks and speed bumps that slowed me down. It was not a straight path to success. I did not go straight to college after knowing most of my childhood what wanted to be “when I grow up.” In fact I did not know I could go to college. I was unaware of my potential.

My journey to becoming a counselor began as a student at Stockton School for Adults, but I didn’t decide that I wanted to be a student there, I ended up at School for Adults in 1996 after my high school counselor notified me that I was “not going to graduate” and since I was 18 years old I was referred to School for Adults. I think that I internalized that to mean that I was not smart simply because I was not fluent in the language and not because I did not meet the requirements for graduation.

The combination of missing school due to constant moving to follow the crop seasons and the fact that I thought I was not smart because I had to repeat a grade since I did not speak English fluently had finally caught up with me…I ran out of time. I have vague memories of sitting in the back of the class at a round table with a small group and looking at very colorful pictures while being asked to identify them, I was an English learner. Once I was in high school I had a better grasp of the English language, but by then it was late. I enrolled at Stockton School for Adults (SFA) without expectations, either from myself or the staff. My future was not clear. I just knew that in order to avoid farm work which my mother had exposed us to every summer since we were young, I had to be at school. I would attend all school sessions possible and although I had begun with no expectations that would soon change. Ms. Baba, my homeroom teacher at SFA was the first to ask me about my goals and future after graduation. I don’t think I had an answer right away. So she continued to ask. I was unaware that the reason why she was asking was because I was close to meeting my high school requirements. I had not thought about what I would do after graduation, because I did not think that day would ever come. After all, here I was because I had not been able to meet my high school requirements. Throughout my time with Ms. Baba, she would encourage me to take class test and this gave me a sense that she believed in me. She thought I could and that was enough for me to try and not let her down. I completed my high school requirements before the school year ended, seven months after I had enrolled and attended full time at SFA, I was a graduate. I attended my local community college, San Joaquin Delta College obtained my AA and transfer to CSU Stanislaus, always staying local and within my community. After I had graduated and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree, I returned to School for Adults as a substitute teacher one day. I saw Ms. Baba in the front office told her all about my wonderful job as a substitute teacher. Ms. Baba invited me to consider giving a speech to the graduating class that year, once again here she was believing that I could do something that I had never considered. Tell my story so that others would be inspired. I could never say no to Ms. Baba, she had done so much for me, just by encouraging me. After the graduation speech I developed a special connection with SFA. I returned as a substitute teacher and eventually became an ESL teacher. There was special connection that I had for the ESL students learning a new language and for the young adults that were trying to meet there high school requirements to obtain their high school diplomas. I had been there before.

School for Adults gave me a sense of connection and helped me realized that I had the potential for learning. Ms. Baba, an adult education teacher saw something in me, that I had not seen in myself and she somehow brought out in me a desire to learn. The fire had been lit and there was no putting it out. In 2012 I returned to school to obtain my master’s in Education with an emphasis in School Counseling. Every year a student is chosen to receive the Outstanding Student Achiever for the Pupil Personnel Service Credential Program. In 2014, I received that award, and there front and center, present to see me received an award in academic excellence was Ms. Baba. As I walked across the stage I thought to myself, here I am a student who had to learn English, a student who had to attend Adult Education.

Now, here I am an Adult Education Counselor. I am the person on the other side of the desk asking student to share with me their educational goals. When I see a student that is trying to meet their high school requirements, I always share with them that I too sat on a chair like them not knowing what lied ahead, but having travel that road I can help ease their anxiety. When I see ESL students, I explain to them that practicing English and not giving up is one of the best things that they can do to get ahead. I did not know that I could graduate. I didn’t know that I had potential, but thanks to Ms. Nancy Baba and Adult educator at Stockton School for Adults, I can help others discover this in themselves.

Hortencia: Elk Grove Adult & Community Education

Hortencia dreamed of working in the medical field since she was child, in Mexico, but knew she needed to improve her English language skills first. "Everyone I know speaks only Spanish," she said. "Even though I have been here for 30 years, all of my jobs have workplaces with Spanish-speaking coworkers so I didn't get practice there, either."

After her layoff from Bimbo Bread, in November 2013, she enrolled with Elk Grove Adult & Community Education (EGACE) Training Center and worked with Connie Guillen Torres and then Monica Mercado Vasquez to put together a plan to sharpen her employability skills. "Monica helps all the time," she said. "She encourages me and stays in touch, asking me how I am doing and always answering my questions. That really helped me!"

Hortencia immediately enrolled in English as a Second Language for the Workplace, at EGACE, and remained in that class, through July 2014. Her instructor, Mari Hudson, assisted her in her reading, vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation skills. In the afternoons, she attended Career Academic Development (CAD), with instructor Kathleen Edel, using the computer to develop a professional cover letter, resume and portfolio.

Once she had completed these steps, Hortencia was ready to join the NCMA class, in the fall of 2014. The class was challenging; but she said, "Ms. Gilmore was patient. She explained step-by-step, so everyone can understand. She's amazing! Ms. Gilmore may be small, but she is a strong woman!"
Hortencia completed the rigorous class and proudly wore her cap and gown, at the February 28, 2015, graduation ceremony. "If you have the opportunity, you have to go to school. My coworkers said, 'No, we're too old.' But they were wrong. You can do it!"

Geno Malkiewicz, Elk Grove Adult & Community Education

After many years of teaching in secondary education, including six years in the Middle East, Elk Grove Adult and Community Education (EGACE) has been Geno’s professional home for the past five years. For the past three years, he has been teaching courses, using the Career Choices and Changes in EGACE’s bridge-to-post-secondary program, “Career and Academic Preparation” (CAP), Geno demonstrates exceptional skills and knowledge of college and career education through. He is a high-energy and innovative instructor whose passion for teaching and learning keeps his students engaged and moving toward the goal of successful transition into post-secondary education, training, and/or a career. He teaches his students how to explore their options to meet their education, career, and lifestyle goals; develop professional and computer skills; and how to use new financial tools to improve their everyday life. He has presented at various conferences and training and has consulted with several adult education agencies and community colleges around the state to provide resources and support for their college and career readiness programs.

The majority of Geno’s students successfully complete the program, and they have reported back to him that they have enrolled in community college or Sacramento State University and are working toward their goal of earning post-secondary degree; they have obtained jobs working for the state of California, as well as careers for which they trained and/or worked in their native country. They have formed cross-culture support groups while in class, and they continue to support one another even after they have completed the program. One of his students, who was living in a homeless shelter with her two teenaged children during the time she was attending the class, is now living on her own and has started a catering business. Both of her children are now enrolled in a community college in Sacramento. Another former student got a job working at the State Chancellor’s Office. After 18 months of employment, she was twice promoted and receives full health benefits, a full retirement package, and 401K/457 plans.

Geno also works at the Folsom-Cordova Adult School as a transition specialist. In this role he meets with students to assist them as they prepare to move from adult education into post-secondary education, career training, and/or a career.

Francisco Lopez & Roland Espinosa

Southern Section wishes to spotlight two of our own powerhouse teachers, Francisco Lopez (Chaffey Adult School) and Roland Espinosa (Inland Career Education Center).

Francisco, a 21-year veteran teacher, and 2016 CCAE State Excellence in Teaching awardee and Teacher of the Year for Moreno Valley Unified School District in 2018, with 12 years at Chaffey Adult School, is currently teaching Online-HS diploma and ABE math, began his Adult Education (AE) career in ESL, and is also a full-time 2nd grade teacher. Roland, also a two-time award winning teacher, as District Teacher of the Year in 2000 for Santa Ana Unified, and as a 2016 CCAE State Excellence in Teaching awardee, started his career in elementary and middle school 27 years ago, then entered AE in 2011 at the Inland Career and Education Center where he has taught in the ABE, ASE and ESL program areas. Currently, Roland teaches five GED courses that prepare students for their Reasoning Through Language Arts and Social Studies exams.

Both Francisco and Roland note that teaching in AE is incredibly rewarding and provides adults with opportunities for career pathways. Francisco enjoys teaching fractions to his students, and he utilizes technology in the classroom to assist in their learning. Francisco says, "Teaching adults is like a walk in the park for me. I love the fact that students want to be here." Roland points out that it is amazing that students who may not have been in an academic setting for many years can apply themselves and thrive academically. Roland says, "I enjoy witnessing the transformation of how students feel empowered to transition on to college and career opportunities after passing their GED exams."

Francisco and Roland have been members of CCAE for 8 and 5 years respectively. Both, jumped into CCAE leadership positions right away. Starting at the chapter level, both have been Chapter Presidents; Roland with the San Bernardino Chapter and Francisco with the Chaffey Chapter for which he was a founding member. Presently, Francisco is serving a second term as Southern Section President and Roland is serving as President-Elect. It is also important to note that Francisco and Roland are the 2019 CCAE State Conference Co-Chairs. They have brought together a large team of fellow teachers, clerical support staff and administrators to put adult education in the spotlight and to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of CCAE.

Francisco Lopez and Roland Espinosa are extraordinary adult education teachers who go above and beyond for their students, their districts and the adult education field. Their CCAE Southern Section Board Members are honored to spotlight Francisco's and Roland's contribution to adult education.

John Simpson: LAUSD, Division of Adult & Career Education

Mr. John Simpson has been teaching for the Division of Adult and Career Education with the Los Angeles Unified School District since 1979. He has taught in individualized instruction labs, as well as teacher directed classes in adult basic education.

During his tenure, he has successfully assisted hundreds of students complete the requirements for their high school diploma. He has demonstrated to be knowledgeable, patient, and sensitive in working with diverse student populations. In essence, he has maintained a positive impact on student learning throughout his career.

Mr. Simpson is enthusiastic, cheerful, and an effective collaborator. He is particularly compassionate with, and committed to, students and their educational goals. He demonstrates attention to detail, eagerly seeks and fulfills new responsibilities, consistently strives for self-improvement, and takes the lead in school activities and professional growth opportunities.

Over the past 38 years, Mr. Simpson has been an active participant and contributor to CCAE conferences and events, both at the local and the state levels. He has been a CCAE member for over 25 years. He has an exemplary work ethic, and he has displayed excellence in his service and contributions to adult education, especially the students that he serves. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Section is honored and proud to have Mr. John Simpson as a member of their team.

Mickey Obermire: Clovis Adult School

Mickey has been employed at Clovis Adult Education, since August 1995, and has been a CCAE member, since 2011. Under her guidance, the Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA) program has graduated first-rate students and is recognized as one of the leading and most demanding programs in the Valley. Mickey is solely responsible for being the only approved adult school in the Central Section to offer the CMA National Certification Exam.

Mickey holds Designated Subjects teaching credentials in both Vocational Education and Adult Education. She is currently authorized to teach Computer Applications, Healthcare Diagnostics Services, Healthcare Information Services and Office Occupations. Mickey is always looking for opportunities to take part in professional development to expand her skills in teaching and curriculum development. She has completed OTAN's Online Teaching Academy (OTAC) and is currently participating in the 2016-2018 Digital Leadership Academy (DLAC). She has been a presenter at numerous CCAE chapter and section conferences, sharing her expertise in online education with other adult school educators.

Mickey has demonstrated a unique knowledge and understanding of the Medical Assistant curriculum and presents that curriculum in a relevant and real-world format for students. We truly appreciate the way Mickey makes students a priority, and constantly seeks ways to insure their success. These are the traits of a professional educator. We cannot thank Mickey enough for her continued years of dedication, commitment and energy. We love the passion she demonstrates every day for the program and is a wonderful and loyal member of the adult school family. It is our honor and pleasure to work with Mickey and watch her transform the CMA program into one of the finest in the Valley.

Daniel Ceballas: Inland Career Education Center

Daniel Ceballos is originally from Manizales, Colombia, born May 20th, 1962. He received his Bachelors in Economy, from the University of Fundema. Upon his graduation he was immediately hired to a corner office for the Arrow clothing company. It wasn't long before he rejected the job, realizing that an office life was not for him.

As a child, Daniel spent all of his summer and Christmas vacations on a small farm with no modern luxuries, and so his father's knack for storytelling was the main source of entertainment for the family. One story in particular stuck in Daniel's heart--the story of the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. So, without knowing a soul in Great Britain, he set out on an adventure. First traveling to Scotland to check out this "monster tale," he then went on to England, where he began to study English while attending Westminster College. By the time Daniel returned to Colombia in 1992, he had been away for 4 years and had backpacked through over 60 countries!

Daniel found it difficult to find work in his field of study back in the small town where he was raised, but now that he spoke English, there were opportunities to teach others, and so he began teaching at the Colombo Americano, in Manizales, Colombia, a bi-national school founded by the US State Department. He taught all levels, from children to adults, and went on to become a professor at the Autonoma University, in Manizales, where he taught English to the Dental school students. While teaching at Colombo Americano, Daniel met his lovely wife Yesenia, and in 1995, they came to the United States together. Daniel found work as an ESL instructional aide, at Mt. San Antonio College.

In 1998, with his new found love of teaching, Daniel was hired to teach ESL and Citizenship at Hacienda La Puente Adult School, where he remained until 2011. It was during this time that he began to embrace technology and all it had to offer his students. He used his ever growing interest to create innovative lessons to engage his students. He began to explore with Smart Board and internet programs, always bringing 21st Century skills to his students. He loves discovering new interactive games that can be used to involve students of all ages to become engaged and enjoy learning. Once adult education began downsizing, Daniel made the difficult decision to leave Hacienda La Puente and move to the San Bernardino Adult School (now Inland Career Education Center), where he has worked as a CBET and ESL teacher since November of 2011.
Now in his fifth year of teaching ESL with the Inland Career Education Center, Daniel has definitely found a permanent teaching home. There, he truly demonstrates what it means to be a 21st Century teacher by regularly incorporating technology into his daily lessons to make learning fun, relevant, and engaging for his ESL students. His exuberant and dynamic personality and love of teaching captivate his audience, be they ESL students or staff members in training workshops. His unique ability for sharing his expertise in technology, and particularly in Smart Board implementation, makes him greatly sought after for professional development sessions for all staff at the Inland Career Education Center.
Being an active member of CCAE since 2013, along with his wife, Yesenia Ceballos, who is also a part-time counselor with ICEC, Daniel can always be found participating in all things CCAE. From fundraising to photographing events for posterity, to packing, delivering, and displaying gift baskets for silent auctions, the Ceballos family gives and gives to our school, our staff and most importantly our students. Daniel's positive attitude, willingness to share his skills and knowledge, along with his warm, encouraging smile have set him apart, and made him a Teacher of Excellence in the field of adult education for the Southern Section this year.

Carrie Frogue: Montebello Community Adult School

With keen intelligence and acuity, combined with a practical can-do attitude, Carrie Frogue guides the development of a rigorous and relevant curriculum for ABE/ASE students at Montebello Community Adult School (MCAS).  Her dedication and joy of teaching for the past 18 years is clearly evident in all her work with staff and students.  

Immediately upon receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Whittier College, Carrie knew that a career in Adult Education was her calling and passion and began her career at MCAS.  Carrie creates innovative strategies to continually strengthen the ABE/ASE High School Diploma Program at MCAS.  She has helped to establish a College 101 program where high school students learn about researching and applying to colleges and universities and the financial aid process to ensure our Adult Education students know that they can continue their education at the college level.  Carrie organizes group community college tours and on-campus presentations for students to alleviate some of the nervousness of students who are going to college for the first time.  In addition, she serves on the technology committee working towards providing a hybrid program incorporating online coursework into the high school curriculum.  Carrie currently serves as MCAS’ Chief Examiner for HiSET.  This is a new venture for MCAS, and MCAS is proud to offer this test at a cost that is accessible to students in Montebello, many of whom are from low-income households.

Carrie does not only strive to assist students’ success; she also works hard to provide professional development to school district support staff and has taught classes in math, reading, and writing to ensure their continual advancement.  

While Carrie was Co-Chair for the WASC Leadership Team (2014-2015), MCAS achieved the rare 6-year clear accreditation.  She has also been involved in the LARAEC  (Los Angeles Regional Adult Education Consortium) planning process since 2014 and will continue to serve as a Subject Matter Expert/Working Group member for ABE/ASE programs.
A CCAE member for many years, Carrie has served as Co-Chair for the Awards Committee and is currently President-Elect of the Montebello Chapter of CCAE. Carrie traveled to Sacramento for CCAE’s Legislation Day in March of 2015 to advocate for the continuation of Adult Education within the K-12 system.  Her efforts as MCAS’ lead legislative advocate resulted in a letter sent by a legislator that same day to the Budget Subcommittee on Educational Finance asking for additional funding for Adult Education.  This swift action was unprecedented and attests to her team’s powerful and clear advocacy message to support Adult Education.
MCAS Director of Adult Education Consortium, Kathy Brendzal, creates this vision of Carrie:  “A hundred years from now, a hundred thousand things won't matter, but the world will be changed because Carrie was important in the lives of her students.”