Magaly Lavadenz, Ph.D., Executive Director

Dr. Magaly Lavadenz currently serves as Distinguished Professor of English Learner Policy, Research and Practice in the Department of Educational Leadership and Founding Executive Director of Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Equity for English Learners. Previous academic appointments include as Chair of the Teacher Education, Founding Associate Director of LMU’s doctoral program in Educational Leadership for Social Justice, and as Founding Director of Spanish and Mandarin Bilingual/Bicultural and TESOL programs.

She is the current President of Californians Together, a statewide advocacy organization that promotes quality education for the state’s dual language learners and emerging bilingual students. Past leadership positions include past president of the California Council on Teacher Education, the California Association for Bilingual Education, and as founding president of the California Association of Bilingual Teacher Educators. She also works actively with district, county and school partners to support equitable access to quality multilingual education in the state, nation and internationally.

Her research in the areas of preparation and support of teachers of English Learners, Latin@ communities, and biliteracy has been published in journals, book chapters and books, including Latinos and Civil Rights in Education: La Lucha Sigue with Anaida Colón Muñiz. She has served as principal investigator for over 34 grant projects.

Dr. Lavadenz completed a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Language, Literacy and Learning, from the University of Southern California. Born in Cuba, Magaly is a former elementary bilingual classroom teacher and K-12 English as a Second Language Teacher Specialist. She has presented at international professional development and research conferences in over 20 countries.  

Dr. Lavadenz completed her B.S. (magna cum laude) in Elementary Education from Oakland University in Michigan, an M.A. in Educational Psychology and Counseling from California State University, Northridge and a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Language, Literacy and Learning from the University of Southern California.

Elvira G. Armas, Ed.D., Director of Programs and Partnerships

Dr. Armas serves as the Director of Programs and Partnerships for the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) at Loyola Marymount University. She is also an Affiliated Faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership at LMU and has taught reading, writing and second language learning methods as well as language foundation courses at several universities. During her 30 years in the field of education, Dr. Armas has served as a bilingual classroom teacher, mentor, trainer, district advisor, professional development leader, curriculum materials developer, and language and literacy specialist at the district, county and state level.  Her research interests include teaching and learning in biliteracy programs, professional development, home-school partnerships and educational equity.  She has published research and policy briefs, articles and book chapters in these areas. Dr. Armas holds a Teaching Credential, with Bilingual Authorization in Spanish as well as an administrative credential from the state of California.  She earned an Ed.D. from the University of Southern California in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Language Literacy, and Learning.  

Armando T. Zúñiga, Assistant Director

Armando T. Zúñiga is Assistant Director for the Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) and Project ROYAL. He joined LMU|CEEL in Fall 2017.

Prior to working for the center, he was an English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) Specialist in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE). In this position, he was responsible for designing, presenting, and supporting curriculum, research-based pedagogical practices, and professional development opportunities for in-practice teachers of English Learners.  

Additionally, he was an adjunct professor in the Department of Learning and Teaching within the Graduate School of Education at California Lutheran University (CLU). He has taught graduate-level courses in second-language acquisition, cultural diversity in schools, positive behavior supports, professional collaborative consultation, counseling, and coordination of services.

He continues to participate on several state-level collaborative workgroups to inform practice and policy for English Learner systems, programs, and instruction.  

Mr. Zúñiga earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University (SDSU) and a Master of Education degree from CLU. At present, he is a doctoral candidate in the Organizational Change and Leadership program within the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). His dissertation research is a qualitative study of the influences that knowledge, motivation, and organizational systems have on the goal attainment of instructional coaches for teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs).              

Gisela O'Brien, Ph.D., Biliteracy & EL Education Specialist

Gisela O'Brien joined the staff at CEEL|LMU in 2003 to oversee the Journalism for English Learners Program implemented at several school districts both in Central and Southern California. She also supports the Center's efforts in research, curriculum and professional development focusing on the instruction of English Learners.

As an educator, she has worked as a bilingual teacher, staff developer and curriculum/materials designer and curriculum specialist in the areas of literacy, ELD and SDAIE. Dr. O'Brien has served as a project advisor and coordinator for several research grants as well as advisor/reviewer at the state and national level including the Framework for English Language Development Standards.

She has co-authored and published several articles in educational journals and books on bilingual education and models for staff development.

Dr. O'Brien earned a B.S. in Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles and an M.S. degree in Educational Leadership from California State University, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis on Language, Literacy and Learning from the University of Southern California.

Nidia Merino Hernandez, M.A., Research Associate

Nidia Merino Hernandez joined the Center for Equity for English Learners in 2016 as a Research Associate. She currently supports the Center’s efforts in the research and evaluation of multiple grants and projects. She works collaboratively with the team to produce evaluation and research results, and provides support in overseeing the data collection and management of CEEL’s projects.

As a researcher, she has participated in many research projects in California and Ohio, and has conducted qualitative research in binational settings, including San Diego and southern Mexico. She has served as a researcher at non-profit and educational institutions advocating for quality education to low-income families.

Nidia completed her Bachelor degrees in Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies from San Diego State University and a Master’s degree in Anthropology from the Ohio State University. She was previously a Research Analyst at a non-profit organization in downtown Los Angeles working on a federal grant from the California Department of Education to provide quality early childhood education and care to children 0-5 years of age throughout the Los Angeles County. Nidia is originally from Mexico City and grew up in Orange County, California.