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.