Portland State alumna named Oregon Teacher of the Year

PSU alumna Mercedes Muñoz, named the Oregon Teacher of the Year, beams in front of Franklin High School, where she teaches.

By Jillian Daley

First-generation college graduate and Portland State University alumna Mercedes Muñoz has been honored with the 2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year award.

A Learning Center teacher and special education case manager at Franklin High School (FHS) in Southeast Portland, Muñoz received her $5,000 check and award at an assembly at FHS on Friday, October 4. A matching $5,000 check also was also given to the high school.

“My response to all this is a mixture of joy, feeling very honored, and also vulnerable in the face of so much attention,” Muñoz said. “I am proud to represent Franklin and the state of Oregon.”

Oregon Department of Education (ODE) named her one of 13 Regional Teachers of the Year in May along with several other finalists including another PSU alum, Jon Fresh.

“I’m just trying to get a hold of all of this,” Muñoz told the COE on Friday. “It’s certainly overwhelming, and it’s good. I’m just not used to it.”

Muñoz fought through desperate times, including a period of homelessness with her three children, to become a teacher, receiving her Master of Education in Special Education and Teaching from the College of Education (COE) in 2013. She was able to attend college as a participant in the Portland Teacher Program, which recruits and retains teachers of color.

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COE faculty and staff focus on student success during State of the School

By Ryan Carrillo

Each year, the College of Education kicks off the new year with the State of the School — an event that celebrates the successes of the college of the past year, provides a report of program numbers, and gives faculty and staff a chance to address valuable topics for the upcoming year.

At this year’s event, student success was the focus. During the opening remarks, Dean Marvin Lynn gave those in attendance an important charge for the event, as well as the year to come.

“Our students are the singular most important aspect of this experience for us all,” he said. “I hope you will keep that in mind as we reflect on where we are and we are going as a community.”

Dean Lynn discussed the state of education at the national, state, and local levels, the challenges the industry faces in those areas, and how the COE’s new three-year strategic helps address those challenges.

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PSU College of Education alumna named 2020 Oregon Regional Teacher of the Year

By Jillian Daley

In her first term as an undergraduate at Portland State University, Mercedes Muñoz found herself homeless and on her own with her three children: an infant, a 7th-grader and a 2nd-grader. They were crowded into a motel room together, and Muñoz was trying to study for her finals.

“I was like: I’ve got to get finals done!” Muñoz said.

A first-generation college student, Muñoz rose through the academic ranks, starting with an associate degree at Portland Community College. Four years later, in 2013, she earned a bachelor’s in English and a minor in special education at PSU, along with a license to teach. She kept going, and in 2017, Muñoz received her Master of Education in Special Education and Teaching from the PSU College of Education (COE). She is one of two honorees this year; Jon Fresh is the other.

My (students) were so excited when they heard,” Muñoz said. “For them, it was like we have won. They were like, ‘She teaches us; that’s like winning.’”

She says that the Portland Teachers Program scholarship, which offers tuition support and mentorship, made it possible for her to be a teacher. Now, she has a roof over her head and a position at Franklin High School (FHS) as a Learning Center teacher and special education case manager. She’s also one of just 13 teachers in the state whom the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has honored with a 2020 Oregon Regional Teachers of the Year award.

FHS senior Chris Two Two has had Muñoz a teacher for four years, and he said he wasn’t surprised when he heard the news about her award.

“When she got it, I was like, yeah, she deserved it because she helped a lot of people graduate and helped people stay in school,” Two Two said.

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Applying Equity-Focused Improvement Science to Educational Institutions


Carlile and Peterson

From left to right: College of Education (COE) Associate Professors Susan Carlile and Deborah Peterson are among the authors on a new work, “The Educational Leader’s Guide to Improvement Science: Data, Design and Cases for Reflection.”

Story By Jillian Daley

Improvement science is like the opposite of paternalism.

Instead of people in power assuming that they know best for someone else—whether the mainstream for marginalized groups, teachers for students or bosses for workers—the essential idea of improvement science is to ask. Ask students, teachers, the community what might work so that they can propose a solution, with the power to collaborate and execute a solution held firmly in their hands.

College of Education (COE) Associate Professors Deborah Peterson and Susan Carlile and their students Ryan Carpenter and Cassandra Thonstad are part of a movement to apply this concept to education.

This quartet of academics are responsible for four chapters in “The Educational Leader’s Guide to Improvement Science: Data, Design and Cases for Reflection,” which came out in March. They co-wrote Chapter 8, called “Preparing School Leaders to Effectively Lead School Improvement Efforts: Improvement Science.”

“The basic concept is in school systems, rather than having the school board or superintendent or building principals tell the students how to improve, have the teachers or the families or the students identify the problem,” Peterson says.

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COE Hosts Innovative Professor

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 4.04.26 PMIt is possible for students to never have a teacher of color from pre-school through graduate school at countless schools across the United States.

Since young students are often hungry for role models to help guide them on the path to college and career, how unfair that children of color should have to go without such support. This dearth of potential mentors for children of color could imbue uncertainty about their own professional trajectory or even instill a sense of rudderlessness.

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GSE alumna Margaret Calvert named Oregon High School Principal of the Year

Jefferson High School Principal Margaret Calvert, IAL ’08, is Oregon’s 2016 High School Principal of the Year. She was selected by the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA) and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA). She is a graduate of the PSU Initial Administrator Licensure program and will complete the Continuing Administrator Licensure program this spring.

Margaret Calvert Wins

Margaret Calvert, IAL ’08, Oregon High School Principal of the Year (with flowers); with (L–R) Carol Campbell (Grant HS principal), Payton Chapman, (Lincoln HS principal), and Craig Hawkins, COSA executive director.

Calvert taught at Rex Putnam, Wilson, and Grant High Schools before coming to Jefferson in 2008. She was named principal in 2011. She is a former math teacher and lives with her family in the Jefferson attendance area. She stood out for her work, dedication to students, and support of colleagues. This is her first job as an administrator. She was nominated for the award by her entire staff.

“She has been instrumental in creating a culture of high expectations for students in which staff members identify, encourage, and support individual students to get them to their potential,” Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carol Smith said in a statement to district employees.

In 2010, only 50 percent of Jefferson’s seniors graduated on time. Today, that number has increased dramatically to 80 percent. It’s a remarkable accomplishment in just five years for a school that the district had considered closing in 2010.

Calvert was primarily responsible for the conversion of Jefferson High School into a community college magnate school for the district. Portland Community College (PCC) provides college credit for classes taught on the Jefferson campus and offers access to PCC Cascade Campus where Jefferson students may take additional college classes for free. Jefferson students are able to continue for a bachelor’s degree as well—at Portland State University, Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Warner Pacific College, Pacific University, or Willamette University—under an agreement that provides scholarships, financial aid, and gap funding.

Calvert will be honored at the statewide annual conference for COSA in June and will be eligible for the NASSP National Principal of the Year award that is announced in Washington, DC, in September.