Teacher of Color Scholarship Recipient Balances Work/Life

Itta González, a full-time graduate student at Dominican University of California who also teaches full-time at Lynwood Elementary where her two sons attend school, has had an incredibly busy life this past year. It just got a little easier.

Itta has been named a recipient of a Marin Teacher of Color Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to address the shortage of teachers of color working in Marin County’s public schools funded by a $450,000 contribution in 2019 by anonymous donors. She is one of eight TOC scholarship recipients scheduled to finish their teaching credential work this spring.

“We were a single-family income for many years so having any help to pay for college has been a huge relief for me,” says Itta, who will complete Dominican’s teaching credential program in the School of Liberal Arts and Education in May. “My husband has also been my biggest supporter and motivator. As an essential worker, at a grocery store, his schedule over the last year has been very demanding. But, nonetheless, he has done everything to support me this past year. While I am upstairs attending class from the comfort of our home, my husband and boys are downstairs catching up on their homework or playing outside. It has been an interesting year, one in which I never thought I would be taking a break from class to have a quick dinner with my family.”

According to Marin Promise Partnership, 45 percent of students in Marin County are people of color, but only one out of 10 of their teachers are people of color. Dominican’s Marin Teacher of Color Scholarship program was created to benefit underrepresented students, with preference given to African American and/or Latinx students living in Marin County who intend to teach, or currently teach, at a Marin County public school. They must be working on the Teaching Credential portion of the MS Education degree or taking courses towards their Teaching Credential as part of their Bachelor’s Degree in Education Studies.

In addition, Dominican is participating in the Marin Educators for Equity Initiative, a coalition of eight postsecondary and K-12 schools and districts from Marin working together to increase the number of teachers of color in the county by developing pipelines to the teaching profession, addressing the high cost of housing and shifting hiring and personnel policies to create welcoming cultures for educators of color.

Students in Dominican’s Teacher Preparation Program develop a broad range of knowledge, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. Through small class sizes and individualized attention, students have the opportunity to explore pedagogy and teaching strategies that address the needs of diverse learners, including English learners and students with special needs and gifts.
Dominican provides full-time and part-time course offerings through the Education Master's program. Supervised student teaching and internship options in the Bay Area are also part of this immersive program.

“As Itta’s fieldwork supervisor at Dominican, I have the opportunity to observe her class every week. I have been so impressed by her ability to connect with students and provide accessible, high-quality, culturally relevant instruction that engages every student,” says Julie Grellas, Director of School and Community Partnerships in the Department of Education. “Itta is an asset to both our teaching credential program and the educational landscape in Marin. She shows us how important it is for students and families to have teachers that reflect the students and community."

Grellas and Allyse Rudolph, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions, have been vital in recruiting students into Dominican’s teaching credential program. The Marin Teachers of Color Scholarship has been influential in that recruitment. A total of 14 students to date have been TOC scholarship recipients, inspiring the anonymous donors to add more funds – and more potential – to the program, which they hope inspires additional donors over time to contribute to the initiative.

For Itta, the timing was right after the birth of her second child to move from a stay-at-home mom to pursue a career in education at Dominican.

“What has always been clear to me is that I wanted a career where I could help. I grew up in a home where my parents spoke very little English, my siblings and I would always assist our parents with translation,” Itta says. “It was and is important to me to help and give back to my community because I know the importance of being able to identify with someone that looks like you or has a background similar to yours. My boys were my inspiration in going back to school and they are my driving force to becoming a teacher.”

Dominican has helped Itta every step along the way. The campus is close to her home and the people she has met have been reliable and responsive to her situation.

UPCOMING MS IN EDUCATION & TEACHER PREPARATION INFO SESSIONS

“When I was contemplating graduate programs I knew I would have to be on campus close to full time. I wanted to make sure the time away from my family was minimal,” Itta says. “But, when I went and spoke to staff and attended information sessions on campus I was really inspired by how welcoming everyone was. The inspiration has continued this last year with how supportive all the professors are. This last year has been a prime example of that support as my professors understand I am a mom of two curious boys who often make an appearance in a class or two. They are very welcoming and understanding of the `extra students’ that make an appearance.

“Choosing Dominican as my graduate school has been the best decision for me. Professors and staff have been nothing but supportive and understanding, especially while doing this during a pandemic.”

Itta is currently teaching a 2-3 Grade combo class at Lynwood – Marin’s first Spanish immersion school  – that will stay virtual all school year. Despite assorted technology issues related to Zoom or the Internet, Itta has enjoyed connecting with her students and forming a relationship with each one of them.

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“I am grateful to have the opportunity to teach from home or to teach from my classroom on campus. My two boys, in kindergarten and first grade, are also students at Lynwood. Lukas and Diego attend school in person on Thursday and Friday. So I usually break up my week teaching from home at the beginning of the week and being on campus teaching when my kids are also on campus.” Itta says.

“There have been challenging weeks, where we have had to quarantine because of exposure and I really had to play a balancing act with keeping my family entertained while I taught my students. I am grateful for the support and understanding of the parents of my students.”

Teaching is her profession now, but Itta continues to learn. Her teachers at Dominican have been role models for her.

“I have learned a great deal from all my professors at Dominican,” Itta says. “One of the things I will carry on to my classroom is the unconditional support from my professors and the willingness to help me and my classmates. It is who I look up to be in my own classroom with my students every day.”

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