Inside USD

SOLES Honors Local Heroes of Education

Monday, October 22, 2012

On Saturday, Oct. 20, Dean Paula Cordeiro and USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) hosted the fifth annual Remarkable Leaders in Education awards presentation. This event serves to recognize and honor remarkable contributions to education made by individuals in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Recipients are nominated by members of their own communities and judged on their extraordinary leadership in education, special education, counseling, child development, or as an advocate for reform and its significance of impact on the San Diego and Imperial Counties.

“SOLES honored five distinguished individuals from San Diego and Imperial Counties as Remarkable Leaders in Education,” said Dean Cordeiro. “These five gifted men and women, among them the first Native American to be honored, continue to show the impact that San Diegans have on the quality of education here locally, statewide and nationally. They inspire our students to achieve great things. And we are proud to share their stories with the next generation of remarkable educational leaders.”

This year’s honorees were Patricia Dixon, Damen Lopez, Dr. Vance Mills, Alberto M. Ochoa, and Mary L. Walshok. These five award recipients have made significant impacts not only in their respective counties, but also on national and global scales. This group has shown others not only how to learn, but also how to teach more effectively and better reach those that are eager to learn and succeed. Some of their many achievements include:

Patricia Dixon is the co-founder and developer one of the oldest American Indian Studies departments in the U.S., which ran an innovative program based on generational learning that reached participants ranging from ages 5 to 80. Program members participated in an annual summer program with an integrated curriculum of native culture and Western academics. In addition to this, highlights of her career include establishing tribal libraries, expanding the Palomar College courses to rural reservation residents, and helping guide tribal policy regarding educational advancement. Dixon holds bachelor and master’s degrees in history, 1971 and 1975, respectively, from the University of San Diego.

Damen Lopez was appointed principal just seven years after beginning as a long-term substitute at Los Peñasquitos Elementary. He was twice honored as vice-principal and principal of the year in his district, while he and his staff earned the distinguished 10-10 ranking by performing in the top 10 percent of all schools in California for an astounding five out of the six years he was principal. He went on to develop the No Excuses University — 136 schools in 21 states with nearly 90,000 students — that focuses on academic success for all students through a comprehensive method that promotes college readiness beginning in elementary school.

For 16 years Dr. Vance Mills was the director of math, science, and educational technology for San Diego Unified School District and responsible for the instruction and coordination of 174 schools with a population of over 140,000 students. After leaving this position in 1999 Mills became the school-based manager for the California State GEAR UP program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) for 54 low-achieving schools across the state. Its goal was to increase the number or low-socioeconomic students who are prepared for a college education.

Albert Ochoa has worked with over 60 K-12 school districts in California, providing technical assistance and covering involvement in international programs in the United States, Latin America, Spain, and China. He also co-founded the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) to better serve the educational needs of low-income students through parent outreach. To date PIQE has impacted over half a million families and has grown to a statewide program currently expanding to the national scale.

Mary L. Walshok is dean of University Extension and associate vice chancellor of Public Programs at UCSD. Her titles speak to her passions as she co-ordinates the education of some 56,000 enrollees through her local, corporate, and online programs. She is a respected industrial sociologist and as such has conducted numerous studies funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition to these major achievements, she is also the creative mind behind UCSD-TV and recruited the producers and managers that developed the station that now reaches one million homes and has 15 million online views a month.

The event was held in the Warren Auditorium at Mother Rosalie Hill Hall and all proceeds from ticket sales went directly to the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences Endowed Scholarship Fund.

— Kevin Wright ‘13 and Melissa Wagoner

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