Switching Her Washington State Teaching Credential to California

After a decade spent living overseas and time working in administrative roles in higher education, Julia has decided to return to her true calling—teaching elementary school. She is currently working her way through UCR University Extension’s CLAD Through CTEL Program to gain her English Learner Authorization.

Q. What brought you to UCR University Extension? Did you choose UCR University Extension over another program? If so, why?

A: I was seeking out a program to help children with English-language learning. I chose UCR University Extension for two reasons: I knew UCR had a good reputation, and then the other reason is, it’s local to here, so I wanted to do something community-wise that was local. Even though it’s online and I’ll never go to the campus, I feel like I’m keeping my money in the community.

Q. What’s your goal for completing this program?

A: To be an effective English-language-learner teacher.

Q. Tell us about your path leading up to today. Where were you at? Where did you want to go?

A: When my children entered elementary school, I knew I wanted to work within the school system myself, in their district. I applied and got picked up immediately as a Special Ed. paraprofessional. Special Education has been near and dear to my heart. I had a brother who was learning disabled, so that transition was a natural for me. Two years later, I was approached to pilot a behavior intervention program, and I was the paraprofessional for that. It was me and another paraprofessional and a part-time teacher. It was a very successful program that doubled in size the next year. It was after that and working around more educators, not just one-on-one all day, that made me realize I wanted to go into teaching. I entered a teaching program in Washington state, and then right after graduating, my husband at the time, now ex, received a job offer to work at a military base in Greece, so I up and left. While in Greece, I did some tutoring and started working administratively in higher ed., and after five years I moved to Germany and worked there for five years in higher ed., then came back to California and worked at a medical school in administration. I finally realized I didn’t want to be a corporate person anymore and I wanted to go back into teaching. Now I’m seeking anything I can to make myself a better teacher.

Q. What are some of the unexpected hurdles in your journey thus far? What are some of the unexpected benefits?

A: Dealing with trying to get my teaching certification transferred into California has been my biggest hurdle. My other hurdle has been that I was picked up for an interview very quickly, but during the interview it was quite apparent that I need to get more training. I could handle all the diversity-type questions like a pro, but then when it came to being in the classroom, I could not answer those effectively, so that’s another reason I wanted to strengthen my background before I go in.

One of my biggest accomplishments that I still talk about to this day was I worked with the most difficult child in the school district when my behavior intervention program was new and turned him around. He became a model student. Recently, another of my former behavior-intervention students found me on Facebook and reached out to me. He’s in his mid-twenties now, a father, and just thanked me for what I did for him and wants to take me to a Seahawks game. When you know you make a difference, and even if it’s in just one child’s life, it will stay with you forever.

Q. When you decided to start this journey, where did you think or hope it would lead you?

A: Just to stay in education. Even when COVID hit, I let a few of my friends know, “Hey, if you want some help with tutoring your kids, just let me know, we can go online, I’m happy to help out.” I got to tutor my grandson, which was quite an honor, and he’s thriving now, which is great to watch. Just being around children and making a difference is where I’ve always seen myself once I decided to go into education.

Q. What difference has your experience at UCR University Extension made to your life path and career goals?

A: Right now, this is only my second course but, not necessarily career goals but in terms of life path my goal is to be a voice for these English-language learners because I’ve experienced it myself, the frustration of living in two different foreign countries. So, I’d love just to be a voice and be out there to make a difference. I want to make learning fun for children. I don’t want them to come to school dreading it. I want to be that teacher where students can come to me and know that I’m listening.

Q. What professional achievements are you most proud of, and why?

A: Just knowing I’ve made a difference in some children’s lives. That’s pivotal for me.

Q. What have been some of the most exciting or rewarding moments of your career so far?

A: One of the students that I tutored when I lived in Greece hated school. She was ready to get her GED: “I’m dropping out, no teachers have faith in me,” that’s all she kept telling me. She was going to boarding school, she was being sent back because the teachers didn’t think she could learn. That was constantly being thrown at her, and I told her, “If you’re going to take the GED, it’s going to take you three to four months to study. Just take a few extra months and let me work with you. This young lady has her Master’s now and is going to be a teacher.

Q. Is there something (or someone) memorable to your experience at UCR University Extension thus far?

A: Both professors I’ve had have been wonderful. It’s hard for me because I’m not an online type of person. I’m really a face-to-face class kind of person. I know for me in-person classes would be different because I would have that face-to-face interaction once a week or twice a week to feel that it really made a difference. I just received an email from my first professor that was so encouraging, and my professor now, I spoke with her on the phone because I felt so behind because I’m not entrenched as a teacher, I feel like I’m missing a lot. She too was so encouraging. That was so important to me. It reminded me of the importance of communication with your students.

Q. In your life today, what makes you really happy?

A: Being a grandma and seeing the beautiful women that my daughters have turned into.

Q. Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

A: I’m glad I’m doing this program. I’m learning a lot. Taking this course was by choice, not mandatory through a district. This has been a wonderful choice.

UCR University Extension student Julia Canaga Julia Canaga
CLAD Through CTEL Student
UCR University Extension