Bakersfield Adult School
Sandra Paz first came to the United States in the early 1983. After learning English, she decided to return to Mexico to attend Juarez University and earn a degree in business administration. While in Mexico Sandra married a childhood friend and U.S. citizen before returning to the U.S. permanently in 1992, but she also "lost" much of the English she had learned earlier. Soon after settling in Bakersfield, she enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Bakersfield Adult School. Her plan was to simply be a homemaker, but once enrolled in the ESL classes she decided to open her options and pursue an American high school diploma. With the encouragement of her instructor, Ron Dillon, Sandra put together a resume and applied for an opening at the adult school after taking an interest inventory in the ESL class. This started Sandra on a career in education.
Starting as a teacher assistant in an ESL class in 1994 then moving on to become a bi-lingual teacher, Sandra has always considered Bakersfield Adult School "home." But once she completed her studies there, she moved on to Cal State Bakersfield because she needed two classes to earn her U.S. Bachelor's Degree. Then she completed the teacher credentialing program at Fresno State in 1998. In June of 2000, Sandra began working as an academic counselor helping students select classes they needed. She helped to develop Bakersfield Adult's CBET program, which was designed to help ESL students tutor children in reading.
Sandra explains her success this way, "I went through what [many of our Hispanic] students are now going through the same experiences and the same doubts. I come from Mexico, and I can think the same way as these students do. I can empathize with their challenges and fears of a new language and a new way of life in another country." She is also able to help encourage students she councils because she struggled as an adult with ESL and high school diploma classes at the same time she was married and raising a family. Because of her education in Mexico, she has the advantage of being able to help immigrant students who come to the Adult School lacking much formal education in their home countries acquire successful study habits so they can succeed in their classes.
"The magic is that they [foreign students] see, through me, that it is possible to get an education and be a professional here in a different country if they make this a goal for themselves," says Sandra.
Sandra exemplifies the kind of success available to adults who return to school to improve their lives. "Adult schools do important work helping adult students get the education and learn the skills they need to reach goals," says Susan Handy, Principal of Bakersfield Adult School. "Often, we also help our students set the goals that will make them successful in the classroom, in the workplace, and in the community. Sandra is an example of how important adult education is and how it influences the lives of our students and their families."
"I think of myself as a role model for all our students. I help them believe they can achieve their goals and dreams just like I did." Sandra says. "Now I have two possible goals for myself. One is to be a counselor to help Hispanic students prepare themselves for the future and help them achieve their goals. The other is to be a Spanish teacher to help students learn Spanish, which is becoming an important language for everyone to learn." To reach these goals, Sandra plans to enroll in the School of Education Master's Program in Counseling at Cal State Bakersfield.
Sandra's outreach to students will be expanding soon. She recently will be part of the Distance Learning Program team at Bakersfield Adult School this summer.