I work independently and also promote Not In Our School, a network of educators working to create safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance for the national non-profit, Not In Our Town. My work includes designing curriculum, coaching schools and producing films and digital media. I have presented and led workshops on these topics across the United States as well as in Europe and Latin America. Previously, I worked in educational settings for over 35 years as a teacher and administrator.
I began my career in early childhood education at the West Santa Rosa Multicultural Center in rural Sonoma County, California in 1975. I then did community service in Central America in the Guatemalan Highlands and later in the Preschool Department of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. When I returned to California, I worked as a bilingual teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in the Palo Alto, and as Superintendent of a small district in San Jose. I also worked as a staff developer for the Child Development Project of the Developmental Studies Center. In each of these settings, I focused on developing and implementing effective teaching strategies for diverse student populations and creating environments that promoted educational equity. In 2003, I learned of the research on identity safety with the Stanford Integrated Schools Project (SISP) and designed a follow-up study with a group of elementary school teachers. My doctoral dissertation focused on identifying, describing, and implementing identity safety.
With Dr. Dorothy Steele, I co-authored the book, Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn. I also have written many blog posts for national organizations including Edutopia, CNN, the American Federation of Teachers, Teaching Tolerance, and Not In Our Town.
My husband, Rito Vargas and I live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children living in the Bay Area. With my husband, I also am working to develop an environmental research center on our private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest near the border with Costa Rica. We bring groups of college students, teachers, and professors to study the habitat and do environmental education with local Nicaraguan youth and educators (http://makenguereserve.com/).