Student Profile: Efrain Alvarez works to build a more inclusive school environment

Monday, November 8, 2021
Efrain Alvarez

Efrain Alvarez is a first-generation Mexican-American graduate student pursuing his Masters of Education, as well as an educational specialist credential in moderate to severe disabilities in UCSB’s Teacher Education Program. He completed his undergraduate studies in Sociology at California State University Northridge. Alvarez has a desire to serve and advocate for families in the disabled community. He hopes to use his bilingualism to serve Spanish speaking families who have been underserved.

GGSE: How did you decide you wanted to go into special education?
Alvarez: My first job out of college was an instructional assistant in a special education classroom. What was supposed to be a temporary job ended up being seven years. It is here where I developed my passion for working with students with special needs. I enjoyed developing relationships with each of my students and celebrating their achievements, big or small. I can’t see myself doing anything other than working with students with special needs.

GGSE: Tell us about a highlight moment or two from your student teaching so far.
Alvarez: I feel like everyday is full of highlights. I am fortunate to be in a placement where there is a lot of inclusion (push-in). My students get the opportunity to spend most of their day in a general education classroom. It is really encouraging to see my students interact and build friendships with kids from their general education classrooms. Seeing my students flourish in a general education classroom gives me a lot of joy.

GGSE: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Alvarez: In five years I see myself teaching and advocating for students with special needs. Children with special needs have been historically neglected, and I plan to work hard to get rid of the stigma that has been put on children with disabilities. I want to work with administrators and general education teachers to build a more inclusive environment in schools for students with special needs.

GGSE: And obviously you're not to be confused with the Efrain Alavarez who plays for the LA Galaxy....
Alvarez: I’d like to think that I play like him in real life. I tell people that he is a distant cousin of mine and that Canelo Alvarez is my uncle.  It brings me a lot of joy to see these two great athletes of Mexican descent have major success in their respective sports.