Magaly Lavadenz, Ph.D., Leavey Endowed Professor of Moral and Ethical Leadership and founding Executive Director

Magaly Lavadenz, Ph.D., is the Leavey Endowed Professor of Moral and Ethical Leadership and founding Executive Director of the Center for Equity for English Learners in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. Her research addresses the intersections and impact of policies and practices for culturally and linguistically diverse students, their teachers, and school leaders. 

She has held various leadership positions as President of Californians Together, California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), the California Association for Bilingual Teacher Education, and the California Council on Teacher Education. Her work is published in numerous articles, chapters, and books, including Questioning our Practices: Bilingual Teacher-Researchers and Transformative Inquiry and Latino Civil Rights in Education: La Lucha Sigue, co-edited with Anaida Colón Muñiz. Dr. Lavadenz completed a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Language, Literacy, and Learning from the University of Southern California. Her K-12 teaching career includes serving as a bilingual paraprofessional, elementary bilingual educator, and K-12 English as a Second Language Teacher Specialist.

Elvira G. Armas, Ed.D., Director of the Center for Equity for English Learners

Dr. Elvira G. Armas is the Director of the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) and Affiliated Faculty in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, where she leads and supports CEEL’s P-21 local and national collaborative engagement initiatives. Throughout her career, she has served as a bilingual classroom teacher, mentor, district advisor, staff developer, grant writer, and curriculum materials developer. She has prepared and partnered with pre-service, intern, and in-service educators in the areas of leadership, curriculum, integrated standards-based instruction, assessment, and family/community engagement in culturally and linguistically diverse settings.

Dr. Armas is the co-author of several articles, policy briefs, and book chapters based on her research related to teacher preparation, teaching and learning in bilingual settings, parent/community engagement, and assessment. She has also co-developed and served as project consultant for the K-12 curriculum “Supporting Refugee and Immigrant Students”, published by Californians Together. Dr. Armas holds a Teaching Credential, with Bilingual Authorization in Spanish as well as an administrative credential. She earned an Ed.D. from the University of Southern California with an emphasis in Language, Literacy, and Learning.

Linda Kaminski, Ed.D., Director of Research and Policy

Linda Kaminski is the Director of Research and Policy for the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL). She teaches in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University and co-authors CEEL publications.

Dr. Kaminski began her career in education as a bilingual teacher and served as an elementary principal, coordinator, assistant superintendent and superintendent. In 2017 Dr. Kaminski was selected by the Los Angeles County Office of Education as its inaugural Superintendent of the Year. In 2019-20, Dr. Kaminski served as president of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). She currently serves on the ACSA/California Association of Professors of Education Administration (CAPEA) committee to support higher education and K-12 education, professional preparation and development, and influence and contribute to the education research agenda. Dr. Kaminski earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in Administration, Policy and Social Planning at Harvard University. Her research interests are in bilingual education and leadership.

Malane Morales-Van Hecke, Assistant Director

Malane is an Assistant Director for the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) at Loyola Marymount University where she primarily focuses on supporting our National Professional Development Grants. Additionally, she engages with CEEL partners in providing technical support, professional learning, and other services related to systems-level leadership for programs and policy for English Learners.

Malane has worked as an educator and administrator at the district, school, and county levels and brings many years of experience working in state and federal program administration and compliance, academic intervention, specialized programs, and district and state assessments. Her work at the county level included serving as the Regional County Office of Education English Learner Specialist to provide statewide EL resources and tools for Local Education Agencies, in a partnership between the California Department of Education and the California County Superintendents’.

Malane earned a Master’s degree in Education from California State University, Northridge, and her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Mount St. Mary’s College.

Grecya López, Research Associate

Grecya López is CEEL’s Research Associate. She assists the CEEL Leadership Team and staff with research tool development, data collection, analysis, writing, and dissemination of research findings.

Grecya joined CEEL in February 2020 with 20 consecutive years of experience conducting program evaluation and research in the field of education. Prior to joining CEEL, Grecya was a Research and Evaluation Supervisor with Child360—a non-profit dedicated to increasing the quality of preschool education for children and families. Grecya also served the Los Angeles Unified School District in many research and evaluation capacities within its Program Evaluation and Research Branch, Office of Data and Accountability, School Information Branch, and Independent Analysis Unit. Grecya’s area of expertise is in culturally relevant and responsive educational programs for children and professional development for teachers. She utilizes qualitative and mixed methods to evaluation and is also proficient in social network analysis. Grecya earned a master’s degree in Educational Policy Planning and Administration from the USC Rossier School of Education, a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the UC Santa Cruz, and a GIS certificate from the UC San Diego Extension.

Verónica Torres McLane, Assistant Director for Professional Learning

Verónica Torres McLane is Assistant Director for Professional Learning for the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) at Loyola Marymount University where she supports the management of CEEL projects in the areas of Professional learning and leadership, teacher development, biliteracy curriculum design and implementation, and policy initiatives. 

Over the past 24 years, she has served as a bilingual classroom teacher, mentor, instructional coach of mathematics, and instructor. For 10 years, she was part of Dual Language Immersion programs, serving as a Spanish teacher, Lead Teacher, and Instructional Leader. She collaborated with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Dual Language and Bilingual Programs Office in the development of the Tesoros/Treasures Instructional guide, and the Biliteracy Instructional Guide for Benchmark Adelante/Advance. She also served as a trainer and presenter for the Dual Language Institute and Introduction to the Dual Language Program.

Verónica earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Spanish Literature and Culture from Occidental College. She holds a Teaching Credential, with Bilingual Authorization in Spanish from California State University Dominguez Hills. Throughout her career, she has been actively engaged in collaborating with colleagues, administrators and parents to advocate for multilingual learners in bilingual programs. 

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

Gisela O'Brien supports the Center's efforts in research, curriculum, and professional development focusing on the education of English Learners. She provides technical assistance to implement effective bilingual and dual immersion programs in districts across the state.

A life-long educator, she has worked as a bilingual teacher, staff developer, curriculum/materials designer, and curriculum specialist in the areas of literacy, ELD, and SDAIE. Dr. O'Brien has served as an advisor at the state and national level in the areas of Language Arts and Second Language instruction and has published articles and book chapters on bilingual education and models for staff development. Dr. O'Brien received her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis on Language, Literacy, and Learning from the University of Southern California and her M.S. degree in Educational Leadership from California State University, Los Angeles. An Affiliated Faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership at LMU, she teaches courses in reading, writing, and second language learning methods across the School of Education 

Tony Plana, Affiliated Faculty

Tony Plana recently starred as Ignacio Suarez, the widowed father to America Ferrera's Ugly Betty, in ABC's landmark, groundbreaking hit series for which he received the 2006 Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy, an Imagen Award, and an Alma Award. Ugly Betty received the highest ratings and the most critical acclaim of any Latino-based show in the history of television, most notably 11 Emmy nominations and a Golden Glove Award for best comedy. Previously, he also starred in Showtime's original series, Resurrection Boulevard, and was nominated for two Alma Awards for best actor. Resurrection Boulevard was the first series to be produced, written, directed, and starring Latinos and awarded an Alma Award for the best television series of 2002. Besides recurring roles on Alpha House, Madam Secretary, Jane the Virgin, Elementary, The Fosters, The Blacklist, Colony, One Day at a Time with Rita Moreno, and Super Store with America Ferrera, his latest television projects include principal roles in the newly released series Lethal Weapon with Damon Wayans for Fox, Start Up with Martin Freeman for Sony's Crackle, The Punisher with Jon Bernthal for Netflix, Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino's The Young Pope with Jude Law and Diane Keaton for HBO and the soon to be released Mayans MC for the FX Channel.

As an actor Plana has starred in more than 70 feature films, including JFK, Nixon, Salvador, An Officer and a Gentleman, Lone Star, Three Amigos, Born in East L.A., El Norte, 187, Primal Fear, Romero, One Good Cop, Havana, The Rookie, Silver Strand and Picking Up the Pieces with Woody Allen. He has also appeared in the action thriller Half Past Dead with Steven Segal; The Lost City, with Andy Garcia, Bill Murray, and Dustin Hoffman; and Disney's highly acclaimed GOAL, The Dream Begins! Recently released feature films include America with Edward James Olmos, Pain & Gain with Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg directed by Michael Bay and Roman J. Israel, Esquire with Denzel Washington directed by Dan Gilroy.

In 2005 he was honored as Educator of the Year by Loyola Marymount University's Department of Education. In 2008 he was awarded Loyola High School's Cahalan Award as a distinguished alumnus and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Imagen Foundation. In 2009 the HOLA organization honored him with the Raul Julia HOLA Founders Award for excellence. In 2010, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected him as worthy of one of the highest honors bestowed by the City of Los Angeles, The Dream of Los Angeles Award for his contributions to the media arts and education. He is the proud recipient of the 2013 ALMA Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of La Raza and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers' Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016.