Skip to Main ContentCOE HomeSDSU Home

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Outstanding Graduates of the College of Education’s Class of 2018

2018 outstanding graduates
Each year the College of Education recognizes a group of exceptional students as its Outstanding Graduates.  These outstanding graduates are selected from each department at the Graduate and Undergraduate levels based on their academic performance and dedication to their field. In turn, these students then select the most influential faculty member of their academic career. Outstanding Graduates and their Most Influential Faculty members will be recognized at the COE Commencement Ceremony on May 13, 2018.

The Informed & Inspired Team caught up with the 2018 COE Outstanding Graduates to learn how they plan to go out and make a difference in their communities after graduation and also what their favorite SDSU memories are!

Savio Chan 

Savio Chan

Program: Rehabilitation Counseling, M.S.
Most Influential Faculty Member: Kenna Hickman

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation?
Once my degree has been conferred, I will continue working in the field of vocational rehabilitation as a vocational rehabilitation counselor supporting individuals with disabilities to live independently and gain equal access.  The Deaf community holds a place in my heart as I grew up in a Deaf Chinese immigrant family and was immediately embraced by the Deaf community as a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), a student and as a working professional.  Navigating between the American, Deaf and Chinese cultures and languages, I understood communication to be one of the most essential elements in inclusion.  As long as intentional and unintentional language, social and physical barriers exist, I have every inclination to work toward dismantling them. 
W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
During the middle of my program, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, a pineal germinoma.  I experienced excruciating headaches, loss of balance and heard loud engine noises in my head.  Needless to say, the ensuing surgery, radiation, shingles and a whole host of other symptoms, side effects and health-related knick-knack paddy whacks interrupted my studies and coursework.  Though I was able to partially resume the following semester and graduate on time (yay!), the outpouring of compassion, support and encouragement from faculty and my cohort was breathtaking.  There was a new appreciation for my relationships with the people around me.  Although this was a distance education program, some of my closest and most cherished friendships with peers and faculty were formed over the course of these three staggering, impressionable and earnest years. 
You selected Kenna Hickman as your influential faculty member. How did she make an impact during your time at SDSU?
Deciding on just one influential faculty member from a pool of so many admirable and knowledgeable professionals in this department was an enormous challenge.  After multiple deliberations with a confidant and looking up multiple definitions of the word “influential.”  It boiled down to which instructor was the biggest force for intrinsic positive change and enduring lessons learned. Kenna Hickman taught beginning practicum in my first semester at SDSU.  I came into the program so unsure of myself; constantly questioning whether my decision to enter the program was valid.  Then the realization that we had to role play as counselors in group phone conferences and film ourselves in mock counseling sessions was an absolutely horrifying prospect for an introverted Chinese boy!  But I found solace in Kenna’s voice filled with optimism, reason, groundedness and reassurance.  Kenna is the textbook, consummate counselor that I hope to emulate after I graduate.

Araceli Mendez-Pintado
Araceli Mendez-Pintado

Department of Child & Family Development (Undergraduate)
Program: Child Development, B.S.
Most Influential Faculty Member: Dan Bacon

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation​?
Following graduation, I plan to further my education by pursuing a Bilingual Teaching Credential. I hope to be accepted into the Bilingual Teaching Credential Program here at San Diego State University and take one step closer to giving back to my community. Although Child and Family Development is not the traditional route for teaching, I am excited to be able to bring the insight I have gained in CFD and apply it to my future classrooms. I have not only gained a deep understanding but an appreciation for children and their development in all domains and I hope to bring this respect forward to my future students as well as their community at large.
W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
My favorite academic experience at SDSU was my experience through CFD 597 which was my senior fieldwork course. For this class, I was able to intern in my former kindergarten teacher’s classroom for nearly 200 hours. I was not only honored to be able to work alongside my former teacher, but it was important for me to go back to my elementary school and see how I could begin to give back to the community that provided me with a love for my language and culture.
You selected Dan Bacon as your influential faculty member. How did he make an impact during your time at SDSU?
The most influential faculty member that I met at San Diego State University was Professor Dan Bacon. I could not possibly sing enough praise to Professor’s Bacon dedication to guiding and encouraging his students to reach their full potential. In the three classes that I took with him, I felt that I not only learned a lot but I received impactful feedback and emotional support I needed to succeed. I will always carry with me his kind words and faith in my abilities as he has helped me to believe in myself and my work.

Flavia Crovetto
Flavia Crovetto

Department of Child & Family Development (Graduate)
Program: Child Development (Early Childhood Mental Health), M.S.
Most Influential Faculty Member: Christopher Walsh

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation?
I have many dreams and plans for the future, but after graduation, I would like to work at an agency where I can provide mental health services to children and families who have experienced trauma. During the last two years of my educational training, I have discovered my passion for working with children and families with diverse needs. I am driven to change the lives of people who have experienced trauma, and their families, by providing sensitive, trauma-informed care. I also want to continue doing research among Latino families. As a Latina immigrant, I had to quickly acculturate and adapt to mainstream society. My experience adapting to a new environment and culture, made me interested in the unique experiences that immigrant children and families go through to successfully navigate the culture here in the United States. I am interested in continuing researching how acculturation has an impact on the lives of Latino families in order to inform best-practices and support the mental health of this population.
W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
It is hard to pick just one experience. Having the opportunity to conduct research with Dr. Vanja Lazarevic from the CFD Department and going to the WPA Convention last year (where we won second place for our poster presentation) has been one of the highlights of my time here at SDSU. My practicum at the Chadwick Center for Children and Families has also been an experience that I will always treasure because it reinforced my passion for working with young children and families exposed to trauma. But overall, I will never forget the people I met. I will never forget all the amazing faculty and peers who have changed my life in many ways. SDSU has changed my life and for that, I will forever be grateful.
You selected Christopher Walsh as your influential faculty member. How did he make an impact during your time at SDSU? 
I selected Christopher Walsh because he has been more than an instructor, he has been a real mentor and I think that very few people have the ability to provide instruction while holding their students in mind. I believe that I speak for the rest of my cohort when I say that he has changed our perspective regarding Early Childhood Mental Health. Because of Christopher Walsh, I was able to discover that we can really make a change in the life of children by intervening from a neuro-relational perspective and by approaching every family with cultural humility and self-awareness. I remember that during our first class in the program he told us “this career will change you” and he could not have been more right. I think we are all changing and becoming better in this profession and having him as a mentor has been one of the main reasons why.

Erika Perez
Erika Perez

Department of Counseling & School Psychology
Program: Counseling, M.S. (Community-Based Block)
Most Influential Faculty Member: Dr. Jan Estrellado

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to work in a community mental health agency and provide services to folks from a wide variety of backgrounds. I would like to specialize on trauma-informed care and utilize my bilingual skills to serve the Spanish-speaking community as well. I would like to tie both interests and work with refugees and immigrants who may have experienced trauma in their home countries and/or violence and trauma here in the US. In these next 3 years, I will work towards my LPCC licensure and someday be able to open up my own practice.
W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
One of my favorite memories in CBB was when my classmates and I shared a cultural artifact during a weekend retreat. I learned how much our history, family and our placement in the world impacts us as individuals and as counselors. I was able to connect with my cohort on a more intimate level. We shared tears and laughs. To be honest, all the retreats were great but this one was the most memorable to me.
You selected Jan Estrellado as your influential faculty member. How did she make an impact during your time at SDSU? 
I believe all of my professors made an impact in my growth as a multicultural counselor, and I have a lot of respect and admiration to see them give so much of themselves to the 28+ students in this cohort. I selected Dr. Jan Estrellado as my most influential faculty member for many reasons. First, she taught us through example (aka “real play”). It is one thing to read theories from a book, and another one to apply those with a live client. She was so natural in her work that it made it easy for me to attune and replicate with grace. I was able to use a lot of the material from her class and apply it in my work with clients and myself. Secondly, my cohort was an interesting one, and I feel that Dr. Estrellado was able to connect in a personal way with every one of us. I have never known a professor capable of doing this with such a balance of love and firmness. Lastly, Dr. Estrellado inspires me to live my truth as an individual and to love my gift as a mental health professional. I share a lot of career interests with her and look forward to having her as a colleague down the line.

Nora Leyva
Nora Leyva

Department of Dual Language & English Learner Education
Program: Dual Language and English Learner Education (Outside Specialization), M.A.
Most Influential Faculty Member: Ricardo Medina

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation?
After graduation, I will begin the Joint Ph.D. Program in Education from San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University. I am looking forward to continuing my preparation as a scholar. My hope is to conduct more research and publish it during my doctoral studies. Furthermore, I hope to continue to explore equity issues that impact our Latinx students in the PK-20 educational system. The knowledge I gained throughout the MA program has prepared me to explore these issues through a critically conscious lens.
What is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
The most memorable experience within my MA program was getting to know my classmates and the DLE faculty members. Each one of them contributed to my learning and made my experience in the MA program unforgettable. Meeting and befriending the international students in our cohort helped me learn about various cultures, and the differences and similarities between our countries educational systems. Furthermore, each of the faculty members created a safe space to co-create knowledge and explore topics that ranged from social justice and cultural proficiency to language and literacy.
You selected Ricardo Medina as your influential faculty member. How did he make an impact during your time at SDSU?
Dr. Ricardo Medina was the most influential faculty member throughout my time in the MA program. He was part of my journey from the time of the applicant interview to the writing of my thesis. It was during my first class with Dr. Medina that I began to explore issues around culture and social justice. This prompted me to reflect on my own experiences as a Latina, and to admit my implicit biases and confront them. Doing this inspired me to be more intentional in my practice, and to address and study issues of cultural proficiency in our schools.  Finally, he was very supportive when I shared I was considering applying for the Joint Ph.D. Program in Education and provided me with guidance throughout the application process. My goal is to one day follow the footsteps of Dr. Medina and become a professor and use my platform to motivate other students to continue their growth on an academic, professional and personal level.

Marco Ibanez
Marco Ibanez

Department of Educational Leadership
Program: Educational Leadership (Pre K-12), M.A.
Most Influential Faculty Member: Dr. Karen Janney

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation?
After graduation, I will continue teaching at the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School where I will continue to challenge myself to think differently in the ways I look at educating children.  I want to continue making a difference in the lives of my students and colleagues by leading by example, working hard and demonstrating determination and perseverance when challenges arise.  I would like to work closely with parents of my school’s community to improve the possibilities for their children so that everyone one of them has the opportunity to succeed, move forward and achieve their fullest potential.  I also plan to pursue a second masters in School Psychology where I would like to continue working with both parents and students specifically in the area of student social and emotional development.  Lastly, I plan to continue spending time with family and friends and continue to grow as an individual and evolve as an educational leader. 
W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
There were many memorable moments that were challenging and made each one of us learn how to check and question our assumptions. I would have to say that the most powerful learning experience that I had resulted from my joining an eclectic study group during my first class. My study group included Eva Serrano Aguilar, Cortney Petersen and Alicia Pentz-Lopez who were the greatest colleagues and friends that I could have asked for.  We worked hard, laughed through the hardships and connected at a level that made the EDL program truly memorable.  My study group contributed to my growth as a leader because they challenged my thinking through the diverse perspectives each one of us had.  Along with my professors, I am incredibly grateful to have met these individuals that contributed to my growth as an individual.
You selected Karen Janney as your influential faculty member. How did she make an impact during your time at SDSU? 
I had amazing professors that contributed to my growth as a leader because they reminded me that anything can be accomplished when working together with a community of people that share one common goal.  One particular professor that inspired and motivated our community of learners was Dr. Karen Janney.  Through her engaging personality and teaching style, Dr. Janney continuously modeled relationship building by creating supportive and collaborative environments that fostered trust.  It was through this trust that we learned to be vulnerable, accept diverse perspectives and learn how to approach new challenges from the heart. Most importantly, Dr. Janney made us laugh and made us feel human through the challenging process of becoming educational leaders.   

Emmercelle De Leon 
Emmercelle De Leon

Department of Special Education
Program: Special Education (Autism), M.A. 
Most Influential Faculty Member: Dr. Chris Brum

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation​?
I am so very excited to have more free time outside of work to give to the community with the completion of my master's! Firstly, I wake up each and every morning ecstatic to teach and work with preschool children with special needs. Therefore, I will continue my career as a preschool special education teacher within the Chula Vista Elementary School District. I will continue volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a Big Sister, serving at-risk children and in particular my Little Sister for coming on seven years now. As a former camp counselor, I have explored in the past working with camps for students with special needs; now that I have more time on my hands, I would love to pursue this further. I aim to complete my BCBA supervision hours so that I can explore opportunities within that field, including providing supervision. Having studied through my master's project the impact that exposure to therapy dog teams have on preschool students with autism, I plan to continue studying these effects, and maybe even potentially open up my own dog therapy organization one day. I am open to the idea of this path leading me back to school to pursue a doctorate. I even welcome the idea - a few years down the line, I would like to see how I can work with preschoolers with special needs and their families on a larger scale, and may want to pursue a position within the district. I would even like to pursue the possibility of teaching at the university level sometime in the not-so-distant future, giving me the opportunity to  influence more students by influencing the teachers who work with these students. At this point, anything is possible, and there is no limit to my ambition and passion for this field. 
W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
I had the opportunity over two weekends to join a team of fellow students and teachers from the Department of Education to work with communities down in Tecate, Mexico. This experience opened my eyes. You hear about what happens in other countries, and how the educational system can work/not work, but seeing it for yourself is something else entirely. We worked on painting schools, exposing ourselves to the Mexican educational culture, and learning from and teaching Mexican students in various schools and orphanages. I talked to Mexican teachers who walked miles just to teach students on the weekends for a couple of hours in classrooms that weren't even fully built. I collaborated with other teachers to create lesson plans in Spanish for students who were just grateful to be in a safe, educational environment. I reflected with my fellow team members on the impact that we as educators can have one one human life, and I myself meditated even further on the impact that I, as a special education preschool teacher, have on my students - students who, if they were living in Mexico, may not have any educational opportunities at all. Whenever I find myself frustrated or in a difficult situation in my job, I think back on this experience in Tecate, and the strength I remember from those teachers and children I met during this time help to push me through. 
You selected Christopher Brum as your influential faculty member. How did he make an impact during your time at SDSU? 
Dr. Brum was one of the first professors I encountered at SDSU when I was taking the prerequisite courses for my preliminary credential in the summer of 2015. Since then, I have had the pleasure of taking a class with him at least once a year. Dr. Brum is the kind of teacher I want to be on every level. His passion, excitement, and knowledge for the field shines through in every single lesson. I cannot recall one lecture in which I was not absolutely riveted by the information he taught, and topics he taught ranged greatly and were not, I must admit, topics I would necessarily be the most interested in overall. Dr. Brum has the ability to read the room and know when it's time to clarify, or how exactly to pose a particular point, or how to simply engage students for a 7-9:40pm class (no easy feat!).You could probably ask anyone who's taken a class from him - Dr. Brum cares not only about the topic that he is teaching, but also about the students he is teaching this topic to. He is approachable, attentive, and endlessly patient. Dr. Brum meets each student with reverence and respect that reverberates throughout every interaction. In short, I've learned as much from Dr. Brum's style of teaching as I have from Dr. Brum's actual lectures, and I hope that I bring these lessons into my preschool classroom both now and, if it comes to pass, into my university classroom in the future.

Aimee Islas
Aimee Islas

School of Teacher Education (Undergraduate)
Program: Liberal Studies (Elementary Education), B.A. 
Most Influential Faculty Member: Paul Minifee

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation?
After graduation, I will be pursuing my multiple subject teaching credential in San Diego. I am excited to begin my multiple subject teaching credential program in the Fall because I look forward to volunteering in additional diverse classrooms. I am eager to learn from the students in my student-teaching observations as well as from the courses I will be enrolled in through the program. I hope to use this education to make a difference in the world around me by strengthening my culturally aware disposition so that I can be the best elementary school teacher for my future students. I also aspire to teach my future students not only the power of learning but also the love of giving back.
What is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
I have been blessed with so many memorable experiences within my time here at San Diego State University that it is difficult to select just one. After much reflection, one academic experience I will always remember is when I studied abroad in Granada, Spain with the Liberal Studies Study Abroad Program. My study abroad experience in Granada, Spain was a memorable experience because I was able to travel and bond with amazing classmates and faculty while experiencing different cultures. I also will never forget my study abroad experience because I was able to apply my Liberal Studies knowledge overseas by tutoring English second language learners at the K-12 Colegio Diocesano Internacional Virgen de Garcia and by conducting a math trail in the everyday streets of Granada. These adventures are experiences that I truly cherish and that I cannot wait to share with my future elementary school students.
You selected Paul Minifee as your influential faculty member. How did he make an impact during your time at SDSU?
Also throughout my time at San Diego State University, the most influential faculty member I had the honor of having as a professor was Dr. Paul Minifee. Dr. Minifee was the most influential faculty member to me because he impacted my time at San Diego State University by helping me discover that my purpose in life is to teach since I can apply my calling to love in that profession. He also deserves to be the most influential faculty member because he has inspired countless students to reflect on their past experiences in order for them to recognize their strengths, compassion, and resilience. Through challenging students intellectually in order to find themselves, Dr. Paul Minifee has taught generations the enduring appreciation of staying present in the moment. As a future teacher, I am extremely grateful for his genuine desire for all his students to do their best, and I aspire to continue his legacy in my future classroom.

Lindsay Goulet
Lindsay Goulet

School of Teacher Education (Graduate)
Program: Teaching (Science Education), M.A.
Most Influential Faculty Member: Dr. Donna Ross

How do you plan to go out and make a difference in your community after graduation​?
After graduation, I plan to continue my work as a physics teacher in the Sweetwater Union High School District. As you can see from my staff photo, I have a lot of fun in my work by using things like alpaca finger puppets (and other traditional and non-traditional physics equipment) to teach tricky science concepts. I have improved so much in my planning, teaching, and reflecting thanks to my program, and I look forward to continuing to push myself everyday to help my students see themselves as scientists. 

W​hat is your favorite/most memorable experience within your academic program while attending SDSU?
Having the opportunity to conduct research within my own classroom was a thrill. Not only was my partner, Dr. Megan D'Errico, and I able to design our research question and implement it with sixty of my own students, we were able to see real results from our study which will improve my practice for future years. It is not often a full-time teacher has the support and guidance to conduct such a study of one's practice and students, but I was fortunate to have it at SDSU.

You selected Donna Ross as your influential faculty member. How did she make an impact during your time at SDSU?
Dr. Ross is my Yoda. I first came to Dr. Ross when I was an inexperienced credential student several years ago. She guided me in the ways of engaging science teaching practices and I graduated to hone my skills in my own classroom. Knowing I still had much to learn, I returned to continue my training with her in the Science Education Master's program. Her experience, guidance, patience, kindness, and humor have helped me not only become a better educator, but a better person as well.