Ed.D. in Educational Administration & Leadership, 2006
School of Education
August 1, 2009
Versatile Scholar Educates Kindergartners Through Graduate Students
As a native of Canada, David Hernandez, Ph.D., Ed.D., is a long way from his family and his roots. His journey from working in Harrow, Ontario, Canada, to teaching in Newport Beach, California, was a long and circuitous one. He reminisces about a simpler, slower-paced life as a boy working on the family farm alongside his mom and siblings. Currently, he is the lead kindergarten teacher at Newport Heights Elementary in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and a 2006 graduate of the CSU/UCI Joint Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Leadership, with an emphasis in K-12 Instructional Leadership.
In his early teens, Hernandez realized the value of education as his ticket to a brighter future. Although he never minded the long summer hours working in the fields, he had a bigger vision of making a permanent difference to someone, somewhere. His first break came when he answered an ad in the local newspaper, published weekly for a population of about 1,600. There were a handful of manufacturing plants in and around Harrow, and Hernandez landed his first paying job of Purchasing Coordinator for a forklift manufacturer.
After seven years and several promotions, Hernandez had risen as high as he could go in the small-town manufacturing firm, and so he set his sights on bigger opportunities in the nearby city of Windsor. He obtained employment as the Data Processing Manager for a manufacturer of machine tools selling to the big three automakers in Michigan. At 26 years old, Hernandez was in awe of the owners’ skills at managing people and business processes with both firmness and fairness (two attributes which Hernandez learned and incorporated into his own life during his employment with the company). The owners were great role models for Hernandez—despite being millionaires, they were humble, authentic, and real. “When I performed well and gave them my best, they would reward me with a handsome bonus and then turn around and press me to do even better the next time,” Hernandez admitted.
During the ten years employed with the machine tools firm, Hernandez completed a master’s degree in Business Administration, paid for by his employer, and earned three certifications (Certified Management Accountant, Certified in Production and Inventory Management, Certified Computing Professional/Information Systems Professional), which were relevant to performing his role as the Manager of Data Processing responsible for the oversight of the programming of the firm’s accounting, engineering, inventory, and personnel systems.
At 35, Hernandez still had not realized his vision of making a difference that he truly cared about. He had grown comfortable living in his own home surrounded by friends and family. All that changed, however, after a brief 10-day visit to SoCal in the summer of 1995. “The energy was palpable,” Hernandez recalls, “People going this way and that…always things to do, no matter what your interests. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.” Upon his return to Canada, he applied and was accepted into a dual degree program (M.A. in Education and Ph.D. in Executive Management) at Claremont Graduate University. In less than a year, he had sold his home, quit his job, bid goodbye to his friends and family, and had relocated to California.
After a year of full-time graduate study, Hernandez was getting antsy to get back into the workforce. By the mid-90s, class-size reduction (CSR) was the new “in vogue” reform effort for K-3 public education classrooms in California. School districts were scrambling to hire qualified teachers to fill classrooms created as a result of the CSR legislation. Hernandez, who had a brief teaching stint as a high school geography teacher in the early 80s, was a credentialed teacher in Ontario, Canada, and was hired the day after he applied for a job with the Whittier City School District in Whittier, California.
Within the first month of teaching 2nd grade at Lou Henry Hoover Elementary School, Hernandez knew he had found his true calling. He loved every aspect of his job—even the late nights planning lessons for the following day or week. Hernandez knew that through the careful design of innovative, interesting, and fun educational experiences, he could inspire his students and instill in them a love for learning similar to his own. While with the Whittier City School District, he taught at several schools in several grades, including a three-year period working as the district’s technology facilitator. It was in his final three years with the district that he left his facilitator’s role and returned to the classroom as a kindergarten teacher, a grade he had never taught before. Immediately he knew he had found the launching point for realizing his vision of making a “permanent difference to someone, somewhere.”
In 2006, Hernandez was hired as a kindergarten teacher by the principal of Newport Heights Elementary School, Dr. Kurt Suhr. Hernandez and Suhr had started the CSU/UCI Joint Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Leadership program in 2004 as members of the same cohort at CSU, Fullerton. In 2007, Hernandez bought a home on the Balboa peninsula of Newport Beach and settled in for the long haul. “I have a plum job, working at a plum school with a plum staff, for a plum boss,” Hernandez says with a smile. “My students are terrific and their parents are supportive. For me, knowing that I’m able to give my kindergarteners a great start in life makes my job the best most personally rewarding one in the world!”
Recently, Hernandez was honored in a photo exhibit, “Querer es Poder [To Want Is to Achieve]: 50 Examples,” as one of 50 of Cal State Fullerton’s successful Latino alumni (http://www.fullerton.edu/50/events/50examples/), which was part of CSUF’s larger 50th anniversary celebration in 2007.
Besides lead kindergarten teacher, Hernandez wears other hats. He is employed as a Research Methodologist in Walden University’s Ed.D. program, where he supervises students completing their doctoral dissertations. During fall and spring, he teaches courses in educational research and organizational leadership for the Department of Educational Leadership at Cal State Fullerton and marketing research for Northwood University @ Cerritos College. For the past three summers, he instructed graduate classes in research, statistics, or program evaluation for the Department of Education of UC Irvine. Finally, he is a free lance consultant assisting many doctoral student clients design their research studies and analyze and interpret their collected data.
During his tenure in the CSU/UCI doctoral program, Hernandez credits two UCI professors, Dr. Michael Martinez and Dr. Hank Becker (Professor Emeritus), for guiding his thinking and helping him develop as a researcher. Dr. Becker served as a committee member of Hernandez’s proposal defense and helped him refine his research methodology. Dr. Martinez served as a committee member on Hernandez’s final dissertation defense and helped him polish his analysis of the data, as well as improve his writing skills in reporting the research. It was also through Dr. Martinez’s recommendation that Hernandez got his first teaching assignment at UC Irvine in the summer of 2007.
Two of Hernandez’s recent co-authored publications include “Alternative Certification: Effectively Preparing Teachers” published in the Journal of the National Association for Alternative Certification in Fall 2008, and “Choosing and Using Citation and Bibliographic Database Software (BDS)” published in the Research Update column of The Diabetes Educatorin Spring 2008. In July 2009, Hernandez was notified that a manuscript he had co-authored, entitled “Laptops and Fourth Grade Literacy: Assisting the Jump over the ‘Fourth Grade Slump,’” was accepted for publication in the Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment. Another co-authored manuscript, entitled “Meaning to Read or Reading for Meaning: Investigating a Path to Latino English Learners’ Reading Comprehension Proficiency,” is under review with The Elementary School Journal.
“I wish I had more hours in the day to write,” Hernandez laments. “I’ve had to squeeze in two hours here and another two there, but I’d really prefer to have a solid six hours to write in one sitting.” He has two additional manuscripts in progress, one based on his research working with new teachers in California’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program and a second manuscript, co-written with his sister, Dr. Cheri Hernandez, and UCI Research Librarian, Christina Woo, on mentoring graduate students using technology tools such as bibliographic database software.
His research interests reach beyond the domain of education. He is one of four co-investigators of a grant-funded research project based out of the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, investigating the “Attitudes, Preferences, and Behaviors Associated With Normal Weight and Obesity in Subjects With or Without Type 2 Diabetes.”
On a personal level, Hernandez can be found at the crack of dawn rollerblading along the boardwalk of the Balboa peninsula, which he loves to do before the crowd or joggers and cyclists arrive. He enjoys reading, traveling, and strolling along the beach at the water’s edge in the cool of the evening.