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Paola Mendizabal

Ph.D. in Curriculum and Learning Design

Education Policy, Planning & Leadership

  • 2024, William & Mary, Doctor of Philosophy, Curriculum and Learning Design
  • 2013, Western Governors University, Master of Arts in Education, Teaching English as a Second Language
  • 2012, Western Governors University, Bachelor of Arts, Elementary Education

What kind of educational and professional experiences did you have prior to beginning this degree?
I’ve been an educator for about eight years. Most of my experience has been in dual language bilingual education, which is my passion. I assisted my district with the implementation of the dual language immersion program, and I collaborated with other dual language teachers to create a Spanish and English biliteracy curriculum. When the Virginia Department of Education announced the new science standards in 2018, I became part of the science curriculum team in my district. We worked toward rebuilding the curriculum to ensure alignment with the new standards. As the Dual Language Lead, I worked closely with the program supervisor on the maintenance and progress of dual language immersion. I’ve also provided professional development for my colleagues in my school, and I have presented at regional and national conferences such as FLAVA (Foreign Language Association of Virginia), Region II Leading and Teaching for Equity (Regional Administrators conference), and La Cosecha (National Dual Language Conference).

As a student pursuing a doctorate in Curriculum and Learning Design, why did you choose this field?
I strongly believe in the philosophy of Paulo Freire, "that educators ought to be social agents and educate their students to be critical citizens." Part of my work in my field is to advocate for multilingual learners. As a student, I did not have a great experience with ESL classes. As an educator, I’ve witnessed injustices towards minority language students and their families, so this cause is very important to me. Educational leadership curriculum and learning design is the perfect way to work on creating equality and a just society.

What do you hope to be doing after graduation? In 10 or 15 years?
An option that I am considering is becoming a professor and contributing to shaping the teachers of tomorrow. I would particularly like to work in a bilingual teacher preparation program. Another possibility is working with a school district as a dual language curriculum supervisor. After a few years of gained experience, I would like to become a consultant so that I can combine two of my passions: providing professional development and traveling. And of course, there’s also the possibility of opening my own school.

Why did you choose to apply to William & Mary and specifically to this program?
I was introduced to William & Mary by a professor. When we began our dual language program in my district, we started a partnership with Dr. Barko-Alva. She simply became my role model. At the time, I thought I would pursue further education at a later time. However, Dr. Barko-Alva inspired me and made me realize that the time to get started was now. The Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership program offers flexibility and students can choose the concentration that fits best for them.

What has been the most influential experience you've had so far in your program?
I’ve had many wonderful experiences so far, and I’m just getting started. However, the most surprising one has been the William & Mary professors and staff. It’s very clear how everyone wants you to succeed. Professors are flexible, supportive and encouraging. They are constantly looking for feedback on how to improve classes. In addition, readings and assignments are very relevant, and I really enjoy them.

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Curriculum and learning design