Women‘s Collaborative growing school leaders

May 30, 2018 Staff Writer

Siblings working in the same school district is not a new trend in California public schools. But immigrant siblings who are leveraging an ACSA program to build leadership skills is unique for classroom teachers.

“We’re women and we’re Latinas and we began asking ourselves how the people in our profession view us,” said Amelia Villanueva, a second-grade teacher at New Joseph Bonnheim Charter School in Sacramento.

Amelia and her sister Elizabeth, who teaches Spanish at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, are part of ACSA’s Women in Education Leadership Collaborative. The Collaborative offers instruction on maximizing leadership potential at the district and organizational level through research, case studies, guest speakers, and networking.

The Collaborative comes from a partnership with Mini-Corps, a statewide program engaging college students with rural migrant backgrounds and recruiting them into working initially as teacher assistants in migrant impacted schools. The Villanuevas embody that background, having left Mexico as teens.

“I was the oldest child in the family and our mother left us behind in Mexico to earn enough money to bring us to Salinas,” Elizabeth Villanueva said. “I came to the United States when I was 18 and I was an English learner when we started school.”

Elizabeth Villanueva sees a lot of herself in the students she teaches at Burbank. Some come from the same migrant background that she came from, and her experience in the classroom and with the Collaborative has offered her an opportunity to grow.

“I fell in love with this school and this community,” she said. “Many people told me this was a tough school but when I walk down the halls and see the faces in my students, I realize there is hope and there will always be hope.”

Elizabeth Villanueva’s hard work in her community and with her students is being recognized on a national level. Earlier this year, the National Education Association nominated her as a finalist for their Social Justice Activist award.  The award recognizes educators who engage in social and/or racial justice activism with parents and the community, among others.

“I never expected to be nominated for something like this award and I’m still processing it,” Elizabeth Villanueva said. “I have a real passion for what I do.”

The benefits of the Collaborative include increasing self-awareness and emotional intelligence, understanding biases, ensuring equity, and understanding climate and culture.

“It’s been a real eye-opener for me because I’ve been able to learn about my strengths and my leadership skills,” Amelia said. “I have discovered a new me and now when I go back to the classroom I’m energized.”

“Being part of the Collaborative has helped me grow so much,” Elizabeth Villanueva said. “The confidence I have now and the understanding of how I can make a difference to my students shows the value in this program.”

For more information and to get involved in the Collaborative, email Mary von Rotz Sakuma at msakuma@bcoe.org.

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