SOLES Scholarship Stories

Meet the donors and current student scholarship recipient of the Dr. Robert and Ginger Infantino Family Endowed Scholarship.

Monica Gries Student Scholar: Monica Gries Dr. Robert and Ginger Infantino Family Endowed Scholarship Recipient


Tell us about your SOLES program and why you chose it.

I am in a two-year Master’s Credential Cohort Dual Credential program with a Special Education and a Multiple Subject Credential. I am interested in teaching children from diverse backgrounds. I believe in Social Justice Education that combines multicultural education as well as special education. I believe in an inclusive education that empowers all children to learn, not only children with special needs but any disadvantage: social class, race, gender, minority ethnic groups, etc. and providing them with the same rights and opportunities of more privileged groups.

Was there a class in your undergraduate program that had the greatest influence on determining your major or career path?

I studied Engineering in Brazil, so the system was different...

Who was your favorite SOLES professor, and/or what was your favorite class?

I have many favorite professors at SOLES, but if I needed to pick one, that would be Dr. Stolz. She teaches Diversity and Inclusion as well as Equity and Advocacy. I learned so much from her - she inspires me to be a better teacher.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

The Immaculata Church because it is beautiful and such a peaceful place to visit.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career and your career goals?

I want to become an even more effective teacher with superior knowledge to teach and support all students. I strongly believe that being a member of the USD community will help me achieve this goal. From the high-quality classes and instruction, the collaboration with other students, the global perspective and community engagement opportunities, to social justice education and change-making approach, USD is the perfect environment for me.

If you could offer a current SOLES student advice, what would it be?

Enjoy your time at SOLES and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available to you, not only from the amazing faculty but also from your fellow classmates.

When you were a child, what career(s) did you think about and why? If different from now, what prompted the change?

I studied Chemical Engineering in college and have a masters in Marketing. I worked for multinationals as well as small consulting companies both in Brazil and the USA. Then I had my daughter, and became a "stay at home mom" for several years. When I went back to work, I wanted a job that would be truly meaningful to me. So, seven years ago, I decided on a career change - I wanted to be a teacher. I have not looked back. I have found my passion. Since then, I have poured my heart and soul into teaching. I strive to achieve a balanced approach, teaching the whole child - being as interested in their cognitive development as in their social, emotional and moral development - providing a positive, nurturing environment in which every child would feel that they belonged, knew that they were important, and that school was a place to discover and learn. My goal has always been to provide a place in which children feel excited to learn every day, be curious, think for themselves, have a healthy attitude towards mistakes and don’t shy away from challenges.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life, personal or professional? Why?

My daughter, Julia. It was through her that I found my passion to teach and work with young children.

Where did you grow up and what is your fondest memory of that place?

I grew up in Brazil. My fondest memory is the Sunday dinners at my grandparents' home. Brazil means family, friendships, love, and joy to me.

What do you do for fun as an adult?

My daughter, Julia, and I love to go for long walks at the beach with our goldendoodle, Daisy.

What's your favorite book, movie, theatrical performance, and/or travel location?

I love to travel the world. I grew up in Brazil and have been fortunate to travel to most countries in Europe and Asia. My favorite movies are Love Actually, Cinema Paradiso, Life is beautiful, and Casablanca. My favorite book is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

What advice would you give your younger self?

"Why not go out on a limb? That is where all the fruit is" (Mark Twain)

What do you believe you can contribute to the teaching profession upon completion of your degree?

As a teacher, I accept with great humility the fact that I don’t know everything, that I can always learn something new, that I can always grow and improve.

I believe that my contribution to the teaching profession has to do with my constant desire to learn and use that learning to impact the lives of my students, their families, and also my fellow teachers, in a positive way.

I strongly believe that one of the most important teachers’ goals should be to encourage children to love to learn, continuously and throughout life, be curious, and don’t shy away from challenges.

We live in an increasingly complex world, constantly changing at what it seems like supersonic speed. Future generations, more than ever, are expected to deal with major challenges and complex problems that will certainly require creative solutions and sound moral judgement.

As educators, we should provide children with a strong foundation and core values and skills that will help them grow and develop into healthy human beings, with a deep sense of self-worth, balance, and contentment in life, ready to contribute to their local communities and the global society.

My approach to teaching is building a community of learners that tries new things without being afraid of making mistakes. Children in my classroom understand that school is a place to discover and learn, participate, be active and engaged, ask questions, do research, have and make choices. I strive to build warm relationships with my students (and their families) but also have clear limits and logical consequences that are respectful and reasonable.

I believe in encouraging critical thinking at the youngest ages (“what do you think?”), discuss moral dilemmas (“you can’t fix what you don’t look at”) and explicitly teach problem solving skills. Additionally, core virtues (e.g.: kindness, empathy, compassion, generosity, diligence, etc.) are an integral part of the curriculum – as important as math and language (and any other academic subject).

I am keenly aware of social issues and strongly believe that all children, independent of their background, are worthy and should be given the same opportunities to develop and grow. In my classroom, the “Pygmalion Effect” (the “phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance”) will always be used in its positive way. My expectations are high for each and every one of my students. No matter where they start, progress is possible. I celebrate inclusion.

Ultimately, I want to help children master knowledge and develop a strong character so they will become confident, competent, responsible, caring and compassionate human beings prepared to contribute to society and to make this a better and more peaceful world.

Bob and Ginger Infantino Scholarship Donor: Bob Infantino Dr. Robert and Ginger Infantino Family Endowed Scholarship Donors


Do you have any higher education degrees? If yes, when did you receive them, and where from?

I received my MEd from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY in 1969 and my EdD from SUNY Buffalo in 1976.

What class in college had the greatest influence on determining your major or career path?

Linguistics, and Seminar in Coleridge.

When you were a child, what career(s) did you think about and why? If different from now, what prompted the change?

I wanted to be a sportscaster and call baseball games. I met a spectacular English teacher in high school and changed to being him, a great English teacher.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life, personal or professional? Why?

My wife, Ginger, is first. My English teacher, Fr. Robert Barth S.J., and my parents, Jim and Lee Infantino who sacrificed to get me to and through 8 years with the Jesuits.

Where did you grow up and what is your fondest memory of that place?

I grew up in Buffalo, New York. Wonderful family city, good sports teams, fine educational institutions at the college levels. A blue collar city if there ever was one.

What do you do for fun as an adult?

Play golf, go to Padres games, attend plays at the Old Globe, play the piano and sing in our parish church and at other events.

What's your favorite book, movie, theatrical performance, and/or travel location?

We visit Las Vegas twice a year. We love going to Europe, especially Italy, our homeland. We attend plays at the Old Globe. We enjoy the various personas of Hershey Felder, a great storyteller and piano player.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stay the course. Don't let anyone dissuade you from reaching your goal. Take assistance when offered and give back whenever you can.

More about Bob and USD:

I owe a lot to USD for all the support given to me and our family over the 31 years I worked there. I am grateful for good colleagues who made life easier, especially Dr. Ed Kujawa and Dr. Larry Hinman. They made the cross-country trip from New York to San Diego worthwhile and long lasting. Working under Dr. Author Hughes and Sr. Sally Furay made my transition from high school teaching to university teaching and administering a great learning experience for me and my family.