Continued from the ORSP homepage.
Lavadenz continues to describe Armas' contributions, for example, with Project STELLAR, Armas “helped conceptualize the project, and she was at every meeting, assisting with the writing, the editing, the budget. She worked to build up district capacity to perform the activities that will move grant forward, to make sure districts have support to perform activities, and served as an interface between the University and the districts.”
“She truly is an equal part in so many things. In idea mode she is grounding. She asks, ‘Is this possible or not?’ She checks into the feasibility of things. Elvira has a level of honesty and integrity that is unique and rare… she really believes in the CEEL mission* and attempts to live those beliefs at all times.”
Armas herself notes that her dedication to and belief in the goals of CEEL stem from her own experience as an English language learner. Armas spoke Spanish first, and even remembers accompanying her mother to ESL class with she was three years old.
As a result, Armas brings a special awareness of the challenges English language learners face, for example, encountering confusing cultural expectations during her ESL program in elementary school. She also witnessed her older sister’s anguish at being told by a counselor not to “even think” about college. This same sister now has a degree in chemical engineering, having graduated from USC.
This and other experiences, including her parents’ strong dedication to their children’s education and betterment, helped Armas develop the drive to finish college in three years, and begin to realize her lifelong goal of becoming an educator.
“I knew what I wanted to do, I knew where I wanted to go, and I knew the community I wanted to work with, so after college I took a position at LAUSD working in a high needs school that valued cultural and linguistic diversity. I wanted to be sure that parents and their children would have access to all the opportunities that they were entitled to.”
As she progressed in her work as a teacher, Armas always took advantage of every professional development opportunity she could and eventually enrolled in an MA program for Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), as well as an administrative credential. Eventually she earned her Ed.D in Educational Leadership: Language, Literacy, and Learning from the University of Southern California.
Along the way, Armas learned that she loved curriculum design, and embraced that from multiple perspectives, including that of the University, rather than taking an administrative position. Over the last 15 years she has been an adjunct professor at such institutions as USC, Cal State LA, and LMU where she has been able to explore her interest in bridging the gap between research and applied instruction.
Armas was recommended to Lavadenz by a colleague when CEEL received the Bank of America grant that first formed the Center. Armas has been instrumental in bringing two Doing What Works (DWW) grants to CEEL, as well as a recent California Community Foundation grant.
Through it all, Armas has maintained her dedication to parents, family literacy, and her students; “Every child has the right and ability to use his or her talents to excel to his or her highest potential. It’s my job to offer the students of all ages, the opportunity to highlight their strengths in their educational journey.”
As Lavadenz notes, that’s not always easy, however it is Armas’ basic approach to everything in life.
* The mission of CEEL is to pursue equity and excellence in the education of English Learners by transforming schools and educational systems through the Center's research and professional development agendas. An integral component of this work is the development of advocacy-oriented leadership. Educators who utilize students' cultural and language resources while developing students’ academic competencies have the potential to significantly transform schools and educational systems. To this end, CEEL's goals are to:
· Develop research tools and methods to address critical questions related to the education of English Learners (ELs)
· Provide professional development pathways for teachers and educational leaders to address the needs of ELs
· Compile resources to support schools and educational institutions working with ELs
· Partner with individuals, organizations and institutions that will inform and engage the educational community working with ELs.
For more information, please see the CEEL website: http://soe.lmu.edu/centers/CEEL/about.htm.