Honor an Educator Awards

Congratulations to the honorees and thanks to nominators for their generous support of the College of Education.


2018 Distinguished Award Recipients


Acuna, Vanessa – 2018 Distinguished Education Leadership Award

Like so many fellow Titans, Vanessa was the first in her family to graduate from college. Ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, Vanessa holds a multiple subject and administrative credential from CSUF. In addition, she has served in several student leadership roles, including president of the Liberal Studies Student Association and co-president of the Student California Teachers Association.


Vanessa’s involvement with Cal State Fullerton continues today, including myriad roles within the alumni chapter. A long-standing member of the Cal State Fullerton Alumni Board of Directors, Vanessa is currently completing her term as the alumni board President.


Professionally, Vanessa has taught for 16 years at the elementary education level. Currently, she is a master teaching at Scott Avenue Elementary, training student teachers as well as new and continuing teachers. Vanessa serves on various curriculum and report card committees and provides professional development training in math, language arts, and technology. She has also organized district wide teacher collaborations, in addition to being a common core lead teacher.

Vanessa’s passion for education and teaching extends beyond the classroom. She helps to oversee the yearbook program, talent show, and serves as winter program advisor. Among all of these responsibilities, Vanessa finds time to give extra attention to special needs students, even if it means giving up some of her personal time.


Vanessa always finds time for her family and friends and volunteers to help others in the community. Because of her connection to the military, her husband, Bill and brother-in-law, Rod, are distinguished and decorated Marine Corps Veterans, Vanessa and her family do whatever they can to support the veteran community.

Vanessa approaches her role and leadership with humility and an earnest desire to learn as much from her experiences as she contributes. One of her favorites quotes that she strives to embody is from Socrates: “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing”. That statement is a true testament to Vanessa’s ambition towards lifelong learning and continued education.


Rabanera, Dr. Al – 2018 Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award

Dr. Rabanera is committed to taking action and finding a resolution to the challenge of teacher shortages in our community. With 14 years of teaching experience, Dr. Al Rabanera is a passionate advocate for growth, stability, and success for those who are currently in, or considering, the teaching profession. Through his work, Dr. Rabanera actively assists in the development and implementation of new programs that promote the retention of current teachers and encourage new generations of students to pursue careers in teaching.


Dr. Rabanera heads a team of teachers, administrators, and Student California Teachers Association (CTA) members in the “Cultivating Teacher Leaders: A Progressive Approach to Growing and Diversifying the Teaching Profession in California” project. This project is an essential component of the Instructional Leaders Corps, a partnership between the CTA and Stanford University. The Instructional Leaders Corps fosters teacher-driven professional development, and has created programs to mitigate the shortage and diversify the profession. Dr. Rabanera received an NEA Great Public Schools Fund Grant of $250,000 to continue development of the program; $100,000 of the total is earmarked for student scholarship for high school and college/university mentorship programs.


Dr. Rabanera’s innovative ways extend to his own teaching. He draws from a broad array of instructional strategies to help students visualize mathematics. As a result of his efforts, he was one of five educators to receive the NEA Foundation’s Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, based on the created implementation of technology in the classroom.


In addition to his advocacy work, Dr. Rabanera is an active member of the California Teachers Association, a member of the Instructional Leadership Corps, and a Core Advocate and Peer Support Provider for teachers across three counties. He facilitates the North Orange County Think Tank for the Institute for Teaching and also serves on the Board of Directors for North Orange County United Teachers, as well as on the Board of Directors for the Council of Accreditation for Educator Preparation.


Dr. Al Rabanera currently is a high school math educator and serves as the Mathematics Department Chair at La Vista High School in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District.


Rancho Santiago Community College District – 2018 Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award

Building the Future through Quality Education


In the heart of Orange County lies Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD), home of one of the state’s oldest community colleges, Santa Ana College (SAC), and also one of its newest, Santiago Canyon College (SCC). For over 20 years, RSCCD and its colleges have collaborated with California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), on a series of projects to increase the preparedness and diversity of K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers.


This long-term partnership has included:

  • 2003-2008: “Milestones Along the Path” aimed at preparing Hispanic students to become highly qualified and effective teachers.
  • 2008-2011: “Guiding and Preparing STEM Students” helped boost the number of STEM transfers to CSUF.
  • 2009-2010: “Project ASPEN” provided after-school programs and workforce opportunities for underserved youth.
  • 2010-2012: “The Teacher Pathway Partnership”prepared students for careers in education by providing individualized support.
  • 2011-2016: “Engage in STEM”increased the number of low-income students earning degrees in STEM fields.


In 2014, the California Career Pathways Trust (CCPT) awarded $6 million to fund the Orange County Teacher Pathway Partnership (OC TPP) that targets the Careers in Education (CIE) program of study for the education, child development, and family services industry sector. The consortium includes SCC, SAC, Fullerton College (FC), five K-12 districts (Orange, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Anaheim and Fullerton), CSUF, JPL/ NASA, Project Tomorrow, business partners, community partners, and the Santa Ana and Anaheim WIBs. The vision of the OC TPP is to provide multiple opportunities to students for employment and education as they persist along the Careers in Education Pathway.


The OC TPP has supported a STEM Institute for Future Teachers that builds science knowledge for future elementary teachers as well as develops pedagogical skills. Future teachers from SCC, SAC, and FC cross-enroll at CSUF in a Science for Educators course, receive pedagogical training from CSUF College of Education faculty, obtain science lesson training from JPL/NASA educators and then teach those lessons to school-age children in after-school programs or summer camps via Anaheim Achieves YMCA programs. Evaluations reflect that students gain confidence in science knowledge and pedagogy and are motivated to earn a teaching credential.


Abrego, Dr. Silas H. – 2018 Distinguished Education Excellence Award

Throughout his more than 40 years in higher education, Dr. Abrego has always understood the opportunities that public education provides and developed several wide and deep collaborations across University divisions, community organizations and non-profits to support student success. As a result, of his commitment and work in the field of education, Dr. Abrego was appointed as a Trustee of the California State University Board of Trustees by Governor Jerry Brown in 2015.


Dr. Silas H. Abrego joined Cal State Fullerton in August of 1985, overseeing student retention and outreach programs, serving as a visionary leader in the planning and implementation of both programs. While at Cal State Fullerton, he received numerous awards for fostering an environment in which all students have felt secure, comfortable and prepared to meet the rigors of their academic endeavors. Under his leadership as Vice President of Student Affairs, hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship support was raised to enable low-income and DREAM Act students to attend college. As a result, of his undisputed reputation for having a strong commitment to high quality outreach and retention programs, Cal State Fullerton has recognized Dr. Abrego’s efforts through the establishment of The Dr. Silas H. Abrego Scholarship Endowment.


Dr. Abrego has a long history of serving the community, with a particular focus in helping underserved and Hispanic youth. In addition to his deep commitment to the diversity and success of students at Cal State Fullerton, Dr. Abrego has also actively worked with numerous community organizations including the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), the Orange County Hispanic Education Endowment Fund (HEEF), and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). In recognition of his outstanding educational leadership, Dr. Abrego has been honored by the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Orange County’s United Way, the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County, the Hispanic Outreach Taskforce, Union Hispana, the Santa Ana College Foundation, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education and numerous other organizations. Further, in 2016, Dr. Abrego was the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Juan Francisco Lara Visionary Leadership Award, presented by HEEF.


Dr. Abrego’s leadership in education continues today, as he tirelessly advocates on behalf of the more than 450,000 CSU students. A passionate champion of CSUF and our region, Dr. Abrego continues to serve as the honorary chair of the CSUF Hispanic Scholarship Golf Tournament, which he started 31 years ago.Dedicated to ensuring that first-generation and underserved students in Orange County have access to scholarships and program support, this tournament helps to further Dr. Abrego’s work of helping young people achieve their educational aspirations.


Almeida, Magno

Professor Magno is a dedicated instructor in providing the best martial art self-defense to the communities, including young children. Thank you for your patience and encouragement in working with our daughter to foster confidence, self-defense, and fitness. We appreciate your support!


Amen, Charly

Honored by Jennifer Leuer Ramus


Charly has worked with our son for two years and has provided much more than speech therapy. Her warmth and support give him the confidence to make tough changes and her Thankful Thursdays make a personal impact. She also has educated along the way. Thank you for making a difference in our lives!


Barnhart, Dr. Tara

Honored by the Department of Secondary Education


Dr. Tara Barnhart is an exemplary science educator in the Department of Secondary Education. She displays great dedication and commitment to preparing future science educators. As a leader, she has served as the Partner Districts Cohort Program Director in the Department. Thank you for your service!


Crawford, Dr. Teresa

Honored by Dr. Lisa Kirtman


Dr. Crawford is an excellent faculty member who has been a part of the College of Education since 1999.  Currently she serves as the Director of Assessment and Accreditation and she is the founder of the SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Center for Creativity and Critical Thinking. She created the College of Education assessment systems and has ensured that the college not only received accreditation but received the highest possible rating for national and state accreditation. But most importantly to me she is my partner in crime. She has taught me about assessment and she helps to keep me sane.


Ellis, Dr. Mark

Honored by the College of Education


Dr. Mark Ellis is a Professor in Secondary Education at Cal State Fullerton and is a former grades 6-12 teacher in Northern California.  Dr. Ellis has published over 40 articles and made over 70 presentations about mathematics teaching and learning for both practitioners and teacher educators. Putting research into practice, he has received over $9 million in competitive grant funding to support collaborative work with teachers of mathematics from elementary through high school aimed at understanding how to create learning environments that support all students in making sense of mathematics.


I am pleased to announce that Dr. Ellis has been selected as the College of Education’s Distinguished Faculty Marshal for 2018. He was selected based on his outstanding teaching, scholarship and service.



Farmer, Ann D.

Honored by Judy M. Patel


Ann Farmer’s professional career in education at Whittier College began in 1960 when she was hired part-time as a professor’s assistant in general studies, which meant assisting professors who were teaching in both the English and history large required lower division courses. These professors had been Ann’s teachers in the 1950s, and transitioning from calling them Dr. Upton and Dr. Merrill to Albert and Jim wasn’t easy! Ann Farmer's professional career in education at Whittier College began in 1960 when she was hired part-time as a professor's assistant in general studies, which meant assisting professors who were teaching in both the English and history department in the larger required lower division courses.  She taught 15 different courses over the 39 years, among them Language and Critical Thought and the Child Development Seminar Sequence. She enjoyed them all, but her favorites were Quaker Writers, Introduction to Linguistics, and History of the English Language. 


As a professor’s assistant, she also did research, edited, and/or indexed book manuscripts for Whittier College professors in sociology, history, math, and English.


Her co-authorships include Creative Analysis: Revised Edition with Albert Upton and Richard Samson (1978) and Jessamyn West: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography with Phillip O’Brien (1998). In addition to contributions about author and alumna Jessamyn West to such books as Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1984 (1985) and Reference Guide to American Literature (1994), she has written both the original 1982 edition and the 1996 revised edition of Jessamyn West (Number 53 of the Boise State University Western Writers Series).


Ann has lived only one mile from Whittier College for the past 50 years. The city and the college and their inhabitants, both past and present, are home to her.


Fujimoto, Dr. Eugene

Honored by CSUF Higher Education Faculty


Dr. Eugene Fujimoto is an Associate professor, advisor and mentor, community liaison to the City of Maywood are examples of the many roles and responsibilities Dr. Fujimoto has in the Department of Educational Leadership. For almost a decade, he helped establish and maintain the Maywood Education Fair, an annual high impact program executed by graduate students in the master’s in higher education specialization. Dr. Fujimoto is an engaging teacher, gifted dissertation advisor, and supportive mentor. We honor him for all he does as a just, equitable and inclusive educator.


Garcia, Yvonne

Honored by Dr. Dawn Person


As the Program Analyst to the Center for Research on Educational Access & Leadership (C-REAL), Yvonne provides leadership & support to developing the next generation of student scholar researchers. She has supervised, mentored, and guided students across many disciplines to recognize and embrace their full potential. 

Her contributions have led to the Center’s execution of many new endeavors including: co-facilitating the first COE South Africa Study Abroad program for 16 Educational leadership graduate students in January 2018; weekly professional development research-based activities for Center staff and EDD student; and, increasing grant submissions for external funding. She has left an imprint in our hearts and the work we do. Her contributions have been numerous and we proudly honor her.


Greene, Meg 

Honored by Teacher Created Materials and Rachelle Cracchiolo


Meg Greene is the principal at Monte Vista Elementary School in Santa Ana Unified School District. She is committed to academic excellence and works hard to create a positive learning environment for the staff and students. This dedication is evident not only when you walk the halls and visit classrooms around the school, but through the cheerful staff who make the school a supportive and inviting place for students to learn. Meg is truly deserving of this honor.


Hultman, Laura

Honored by Dr. John L. Hoffman


In her role as a financial reporting manager, Laura Hultman played an instrumental role setting up the grant-funded M.S. in higher education for a cohort of students from Shanghai Normal University. While working in finance, she was an educator at heart and took great joy in working with students.


Inge, Regis

Honored by Dr. Melinda Pierson


Mr. Inge earned Teacher of the Year in 2016 for the Southern region of California and is a model language arts ELD teacher at Willowbrook Middle School in Compton. For the past 15 years, he has taken his students to homeless shelters as well as given them many service learning opportunities.


Lara Jr., Senator Ricardo

Honored by the CSUF Educational Leadership Department


Ricardo Lara, Jr. is one of the founding members of the Maywood Advisory Board that has made a direct impact on the education of our CSUF students in the Master’s in Education (MSHE). As president, Ricardo is also s president of the Maywood Lions Club which has partnered with MSHE to increase visibility and support of the fair. He is actively engaged with our MSHE students and faculty, before, during, and after the fair. In preparation for the Maywood Education Fair, each year Ricardo takes time to help gather community members together with our students so that our MSHE service learning project, the Maywood Education Fair is based on needs assessments conducted using qualitative focus groups with residents. He understands the value of bringing educational resources to the community and is willing to help continue this tradition. Most importantly, he regularly attends the Maywood Advisory Board meetings and offers ideas for potential sponsors. The Maywood Education Fair would not be possible without the support of local leaders, like Ricardo Lara, Jr. We honor him for the care he shows for the Maywood community and yearn to see its residents believe that a college degree education is attainable.


Leuer, Marilyn

Honored by Department of Secondary Education


Beaming star that burns She gives light and energy Students radiate Marilyn Leuer is a teacher extraordinaire! She’s co-directed literacy institutes, been a caring TPA coordinator, and taught classes for CSUF’s Single Subject Credential Program. She’s a stellar educator whose legacy will live on.


Martinez-Cruz, Dr. Armando

Honored by Dr. Martin Bonsangue


Dr. Armando Martinez-Cruz has devoted his life to the teaching and learning of mathematics for all. He has had a profound effect on his students and colleagues, and is widely respected as a mathematics educator at the local, national, and international levels. He is truly a remarkable person.


Preciado, Henoc

Honored by Dr. Joy & John Hoffman


Henoc was the inaugural coordinator for the Titan Dreamer Center, and he has become a leading expert, advocate, and educator for Dreamer issues within the CSU System.


Randall, Dr. Lynda

Honored by the Department of Secondary Education


For nearly 30 years, Dr. Lynda Randall has exemplified academic rigor, innovation and commitment as a Professor of Education, while mentoring countless students and faculty. As leader on campus, Dr. Randall also received the university’s Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching award.


Saint-Saens, Berenice

Honored by Dr. Natalie Tran


Thank you Ms. Saint-Saens for your dedication and commitment to teaching young children. Over the past year, we have watched our toddler grow under her care and guidance. Her modeling of language use, grace, and courtesy in the classroom is exemplary. Thank you for all you do!


Valenciana, Dr. Christine

Honored by Hallie Yopp Slowik, Ruth Yopp-Edwards and Kim Norman


We honor Dr. Christine Valenciana for her commitment to learning and longstanding advocacy for children and families. Her work supporting bilingual educators and her establishment of the Los Maestros Alumni Chapter leave a meaningful legacy. Congratulations on your retirement and continued impact.


Veloz, Dr. Olivia

Honored by the Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (C-REAL)


Dr. Olivia Veloz has dedicated over 26 years uplifting students within the community college setting. Over the last 12 years she’s worked diligently to expand the skills development and tutoring services available to Fullerton College students while serving as the Director of the Academic Support Center. Student development is at the forefront of Olivia’s work as well as has dedicated herself to advocating for historically underserved students. She has served as a Puente Program mentor for more than a decade and also created a life skills coaching program for student athletes. She believes it’s important to develop our leaders of tomorrow. Most recently she serves as a board member for the California Community College Latina Leadership Network. All who are blessed to know Dr. Veloz will tell you that she is one of the most compassionate and giving people they know. It is for these reasons, and many more not mentioned, that we honor Dr. Olivia Veloz.


Weiss, Deborah

Honored by Larry and Theresa Rovira


Deborah Weiss has been an award-winning educator for over 30-years.  Having taught in middle school, junior high, and high school in the Inland Empire, Debi has spent the past 26-years at Rueben S. Ayala High School in Chino Hills.  She has taught home economics, been class advisor, cheer advisor, and even the badminton coach, before settling in as the activities director for the past 17-years.  Her commitment, enthusiasm, and mentoring students earned her the National Renaissance Educator of the Year, the California Association of Renaissance Educators Educator of the Year, and the California Activities Director of the Year.  Debi recently was elected the 2018-2019 President of the California Association of Directors of Activities after serving on the region council, and as the region’s coordinator.  She continues to serve as the CIF Southern Section treasurer for the Palomares Athletic League, and was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award. Debi has been married to Titan alumnus, Jim Weiss, for 30+ year, and has a daughter, Samantha, and son, Jacob, who are also proud graduates of Cal State Fullerton. 


Wong, Jennifer

Honored by Jennifer Leuer Ramus


Jennifer Wong loves science and it is infectious. She loves “science kids” who flourish in her honors science classroom at Cerro Villa Middle School. And she loves Science Olympiad, which she teaches on her break (and afternoons and 12-hour Saturdays during competitions) as an elective.