Southern Section

Rodney Lacanienta: Poway Adult School

As the Poway Adult School's Learning Center door opens and students begin to enter, there is a person who always stands out. His smile is always the first thing one notices. This happens every day the center is open, rain or shine. It's hard to believe that there was once a time when the dedication to learning and perseverance to succeed was not his number one priority.  

As he was growing up, Rodney Lacanienta made some poor choices, which included using drugs and joining a gang when he was 13 years old. By the time he was a junior in high school, he had been removed from school for several offenses, including drug use and fighting. He found himself in and out of institutions for the next several years.

In hopes of changing his ways, Rodney decided to leave San Diego and start fresh in Nevada. Unfortunately, he found it easier to continue along the same path. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to time in prison where he spent the next eight years of his life. According to Rodney, while living on the inside he soon learned that he had to constantly be aware of his surroundings because his life could be taken as a result of what was essentially someone else's problem.

During his time in prison, he realized it had been eight years since he had spoken to his parents. That separation, as well as the dangers he faced in prison, pushed him to turn his life around. The day he was released, he called his mom and asked for help. Her response was to tell Rodney how much she loved him. After their conversation, he made the decision to give away his belongings and move back to San Diego. More importantly, Rodney decided to remove himself from any temptations that might pull him back into his previous life. He also began attending church with his parents. He is presently very active with youth groups and also plays drums with the church group.

His dad recommended he return to school and complete the requirements necessary to earn a high school diploma. At that point, Rodney realized he had no skills and school presented a fear of failure. Even though he was scared, he contacted Poway Adult School. On November 2, 2015, Rodney began classes to earn his diploma. Riding the bike his dad purchased for him to get to school, Rodney has not ever missed a day. He has excelled and become a role model to his fellow students. His teachers admire the quality and determination he demonstrates as he completes assignments.

Rodney chose to take advantage of the support made available through the Poway Adult School ASE program. Ms. Gomez, being a veteran teacher, took Rodney under her wing, nurtured him, and built upon each of his course-work successes. Working in tandem with Ms. Gomez, the school's ASE Counselor Ms. Perez closely monitored Rodney's credits and offered encouragement whenever needed. Because of his readiness and willingness to believe in himself, and others' commitment to support his efforts, this Poway Adult School team saw Rodney excel and become a confident, driven, and successful young man.  

Rodney is well on his way to a career that will make the world a better place, and is so far from the wrong road the 13-year-old boy took that led to such a dark place.  

Rodney graduated in August, 2017, gave the student commencement speech at the ceremony, and will begin his next goal of earning his degree in Theology at Calvary Bible College in Murietta, California.

Elsa Martinez: San Bernadino Adult School

Elsa Martinez, Bilingual Clerk II - A Shining Success from the Southern Section

In 2009, when the recession hit hard, everyone in the working world was touched by it. This was definitely the case for Elsa Martinez. Providing the main source of income for her husband and 2 children, she had worked long and hard hours at a steel construction company, until 2009 found her laid off as the company was forced to shut its doors, due to the economy.

Elsa suddenly found herself with no income, and as luck would have it, she was also pregnant with her third child, a daughter. Not knowing what to do and not being sure where she could find work, she stayed at home and went about the business of raising a family and struggling to make ends meet. It was a very difficult time for their family, but it did offer plenty of time for Elsa to think about what she needed to do to make sure that they never ended up in this situation again. She decided to go to school and develop some new skills. She enrolled at the San Bernardino Adult School, in the Keyboarding, Microsoft Office, Business Skills, Excel, Word, and QuickBooks classes, where she poured everything she had into her studies. Her goal was to earn certificates in both Office Assistant, and Accounting Clerk, but while she was going to school and pressing forward, life at home was becoming more and more stressful due to the lack of finances. She knew a decision had to be made. 

One of the teachers at the Adult School had told the class that Amazon was just settling into San Bernardino and was looking to hire 700 workers. She knew she needed that job but was also torn about giving up her educational pursuits. She confided in one of her teachers that she was truly struggling with knowing what to do. Her family needed that income, and she really didn't want to leave school for fear of not being able to return. The teacher encouraged her to do what was best for herself and for her family and that the school would be waiting when she was ready to return. So she said good bye and went to work at Amazon.

With her computer skills, she quickly advanced to a position of "Problem Solving," making a nice wage, with good benefits. She remained at Amazon for 3 years and got everything at home back in balance. Not being one to rest on her accomplishments for long, Elsa began placing applications and resumes at various other places. In her heart, she said she always hoped she could work for a school. While job searching in the mornings, she continued her Amazon job at night. She laughingly said she believes she slept through her first two or three morning job interviews, but then one day, she received a call to interview for San Bernardino City Schools. As tired as she was, she nearly blew it off, but something inside her told her to go, so she did.

This time she was at least mostly awake as she answered the various questions about skills, character decisions, etc., and then the interviewer said the magic words, "If you were to be hired, you would be working at the San Bernardino Adult School", at which point, Elsa became wide awake and completely focused. She exclaimed with great joy and pride, "I love the Adult School, I got all my training at the Adult School!" Needless to say, the interviewing principal was happy to see an alumnus so excited about the possibility of returning to the school as an employee. Elsa was hired as a Bi-Lingual Clerk II. She is currently working in the assessment and data collections office and has gone on to earn her certificate in GED test proctoring. She credits her teachers and the staff at the adult school for having the insight to know what she needed and to directing her path by making her feel as though she would always have a home at the school. Elsa says she truly believes that God's will brought her to the Adult School. We are all blessed that He did.

Fatima & Genova Hernandez: San Bernadino Adult School

Every journey starts with a simple step. For many that simple step can be one full of hesitation and anxiety. That is exactly how two sisters from Mexico, Fatima and Genova Hernandez, felt upon embarking on their educational journey at San Bernardino Adult School, in fall of 2013. Their goal was to improve their English enough to be able to find employment in the community. Now, almost two years after first setting foot in adult school, Fatima and Genova Hernandez have passed all four subject matter GED exams in English!

"We wanted to learn English. That's all," is what both sisters replied on their thoughts back to the fall of 2013 as they registered at San Bernardino Adult, "We wanted the GED but didn't know we could do it."

Their remarkable success story includes one of much dedication and endurance, as well as mutual support. Both Fatima and Genova live approximately 20 miles north of San Bernardino Adult School, in the City of Twin Peaks. For those who do not know the area, the city's location is known for its wilderness amongst the San Bernardino National Forest. The drive down and up the hill must be taken with much precaution. Despite the inclement weather that Twin Peaks and Lake Arrowhead are famously known for, this difficulty did not stop Fatima and Genova from attending class on a regular basis.

Initially, Fatima and Genova scored into the ESL Intermediate I course at the school. After completing the course they progressed onto Intermediate II. Eighteen months after their enrollment, the two sisters found themselves successfully graduating from the ESL program at San Bernardino Adult School. At this moment and in mutual agreement to keep supporting each other, both Fatima and Genova enrolled in the ABE for ESL Students course.

The ABE for ESL Students course at San Bernardino Adult School has the main objective of preparing students who have successfully graduated from the ESL program for success in GED preparation courses. As Fatima and Genova demonstrated to have enough understanding of the English language in the ABE class, Mrs. Rosa Leon Blanco, with encouragement and reassurance that much academic support would be available (tutors, extra resources and practices), promoted Fatima and Genova to the GED Test Preparation evening course with Mr. Oscar Lara. In this course, the two sisters studied side by side with other fellow ESL graduates as well as native speakers of the English language--all of whom had in common the aspiration, motivation, and mind set of passing the four components of the GED exam.

On May 29, 2015, at 6pm, Fatima Hernandez and Genova Hernandez, in company of their parents, family members, friends, classmates, and teachers, received the General Education Development (GED) Diploma!

Furthermore, with the help of the San Bernardino Adult School's College Transition Program, Fatima and Genova are ecstatically anticipating starting college in winter.

One little step does make all the difference!

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.

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.