Education, resilience, and healthy well-being have been constant foundations throughout my life. As a young person, I did not like school. I was the child that did not connect to the material or teacher; I was frequently bored; and seldom engaged.
No amount of sticker charts, rewards, or punishments were motivating for me. During class I would daydream of playful and creative ways that history and science could be taught. Dolls and stuffed animals became my first classroom to experiment with various ways to teach. This same circle of attentive toys was also the space where negative emotions were processed out loud.
The teacher and therapist within began to grow roots at around age eight.
My grandparents adopted and raised me until age thirteen, at which point I lived with my mother until age sixteen. I tested out of high school at the beginning of my junior year and petitioned the court to be an emancipated minor. There is a long meaningful story underneath that time; but the end result is that the quest for meaning, purpose, autonomy, and joy began when I was curious enough to discover it.
Community college was my first positive educational experience. Joy and curiosity filled my mind unlike any learning experience had sparked before. Learning became a new love. A poetry professor assisted with my acceptance to San Jose State University through the Extended Opportunity Program (EOP). While I did not have parents to pay for school, or the SAT scores; I embraced fierce determination and what would become an equally fierce work ethic. Three years later, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology and had three years’ experience as a teacher’s aide in a private K-5 school.
The quest to learn more and to make a positive impact in the lives of children lead me to acquire a multiple subject teaching credential while teaching in The Long Beach Unified School District. Some of my favorite memories are teaching in Title 1 schools, directing talent shows, leading after school theater programs, and bringing curricula to life through acting and project-based assignments.
While teaching in LBUSD, I attended Pepperdine University’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program. Most of my internship hours were practiced in public schools and community health clinics. There was a brief time in private practice that helped me to discover that I cannot sit still for six hours a day! However, the valuable training of counseling and assessment are skills that come in handy, in almost all situations. MFT training prepared me to lead groups, recognize trauma responses, and to deeply appreciate the range of human emotions. Most of all, the MFT program gave me the compassion and tools to heal myself.
This healing process prompted me to evaluate life, its meaning, and the type of woman I wanted to become. This led me to file for a divorce; end toxic friendships; travel to places that fostered spiritual growth; spend weeks exploring Mayan temples and jungles; camp all around the Southwest for months; and move to where I call home, San Diego. By my thirtieth year of my journey I was single again; living alone with my two Australian Shepherds; accepted to the doctoral program at The University of Southern California; and actively designing the life that I knew was possible. All my thoughts, decisions, and behaviors were aligned with the life that I was creating. A beautiful life that became the most recent chapter of my life which I have cherished.
In 2009, I graduated with a Doctorate of Education in Educational Psychology from The University of Southern California. While attending USC, I completed a higher education teaching fellowship in The Rossier School of Education. This unique opportunity allowed me to teach undergraduates psychology, effective study skills, test taking skills, time management, and the development of gratitude at a top-tier university. The concept of gratitude presented many research questions for me leading to my dissertation in exploring the relationship between gratitude and aspects of learning.
Each season of my life has been woven with challenges, strengths, gratitude, and opportunities to expand and deepen my life’s purpose.
The birth of my daughter inspired the educational entrepreneur within. The search for an innovative and meaningful early education for her lead me to create a dream school for her and her generation. I am the founder and Executive Director of The Gratitude Garden Preschool. The Gratitude Garden Preschool is committed to nurturing curiosity and creativity through balancing innovative STEM curricula, artistic expression, leadership, and emotional well-being.
It is the sweetest school filled with birds, bunnies, chickens, technology, open-ended artistic expression, experiments, and the most dedicated and kind staff to love our children each day.
In 2011, I returned to Pepperdine University to teach as an adjunct professor in our Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Teaching graduate level courses is pure joy for me. It is an honor to learn from our students and to create an environment that nurtures authentic learning, questioning, and applying new concepts.
My research interests include constructs of positive psychology, conditions that foster resilience and optimism in childhood, post-traumatic growth, factors of motivation, and self-determination.
Thank you for taking time to visit my site. I hope there is something of value for you here, or perhaps you can share something with me.