The curriculum’s designer and professional development director, Gerard Javier Vargas, has extensive experience and expertise in curriculum design, teacher training, instructional coaching, Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL), and cognitive neuroscience. Gerard taught high school science for 12 years at Animo Leadership Charter High School, leading staff professional development and helping it become the 7th best high school in California according to the 2019 US News and World Report. Gerard was a teacher leader for 10+ years at various levels (grade level leader, science department chair, and district-wide science professional development lead).
Gerard is also an adjunct clinical faculty member at Loyola Marymount University, teaching science methods and brain-based teaching to educators in the graduate school of education. Gerard was instrumental in the development of Loyola Marymount’s CMAST program, where he developed new brain-based teaching approaches that led to high student achievement and engagement. (His students’ science test scores were the highest in the Green Dot Public Schools district for 6 consecutive years). In 2009 he received the national teacher of the year award by the prestigious Sigma Xi association, a scientific research honors society of Nobel Prize Laureates, including Albert Einstein. The CMAST program is a top-notch professional development program that has resulted in high levels of student achievement at all grade levels in Math and Science around the nation.
After teaching, Gerard was a science curriculum specialist for five years at Green Dot Public Schools where he led district-wide science teacher professional development, NGSS curriculum writing, and instructional coaching for middle and high school math and science teachers. Gerard gives guest lectures and workshops at various education conferences around the nation, inspiring the integration of brain-based teaching, literacy strategies, and SEL methods to improve Common Core and NGSS results (CSTA, NSTA, GLATSA, etc). He continues to consult various school districts in instructional professional development, SEL implementation, and school culture improvement. He is trained and certified in a range of teaching approaches including Thinking MapsTM, Reading Apprenticeship (RA), Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC), Brain-Based Teaching (CMAST), NGSS and Common Core, SEL instruction, and other methods that improve student academic achievement and mental health. We continually seek teacher and student feedback through focus groups, surveys, pilot lessons, and teacher interviews in order to continually improve the student experience and SEL outcomes for schools.
Co-founder Jose Hernandez started his teaching career at Animo Leadership Charter High School, where he taught history and English for seven years. During his teaching career at Animo Leadership Charter High School, Jose's history and English classes had among the highest test scores in the entire school district. In addition, Jose's history classes outperformed all other world history classes in Greendot Public Schools. While at Animo Leadership Charter High School, Jose was also part of the Discipline Review Board (DRB), where he oversaw student behavior cases and provided assistance to further support schools, teachers, and parents with behavior and academic problems.
Jose relocated and began working for Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) with students with severe social and emotional trauma as well as students who were released from juvenile detention centers and expelled from their local high schools. While working for LACOE, Jose mentored and assisted students with their academics. In addition, Jose also spent time taking students and parents on field trips to several community colleges and universities. Moreover, he helped multiple students graduate from high school and move on to seek higher education at local community colleges. Additionally, he also helped with leading professional development and mentorship programs for students.
Lastly, Jose worked for Rolling Hills Prep and Renaissance School of The Arts and Science for four years. There he was a history and physical education teacher, and a learning specialist. As a learning specialist, Jose worked with students with learning differences. He helped students organize their homework, prepare for quizzes and test, and maintain their daily schedules. Jose was in constant communication with student advisors, teachers, parents, and counselors to ensure that students were performing and getting their work turned in on time and on track to graduate high school. While at Rolling Hills Prep and Renaissance School of The Arts and Science, Jose transformed students’ lives by helping them achieve high levels of success and happiness, which in turn led them to graduate high school and move on to local community colleges and universities.