Teaching alumni to speak on campus during California Teachers Summit

More than 600 Sacramento-area educators – many of them Sacramento State alums – will come to the University this Friday for the third annual Better Together: California Teachers Summit, held concurrently at dozens of sites up and down the states.

At each of those sites, local teachers will dispense their wisdom to attendees in the form of “EdTalks,” named after the popular online TED Talks through which academics and others speak on their areas of expertise. And Sacramento State’s EdTalks will be truly Made at Sac State: Both of the day’s speakers are Hornet alumni.

“I taught for 34 years, and there weren’t a lot of conferences around like the Teachers Summit,” says Vanessa Dauterive ’82 (Liberal Studies), MA ’89 (Education), a kindergarten teacher who recently retired from the Natomas Unified School District. “It’s pretty exciting. To me, if you walk into a room and you take one thing away, you’ve taken something into your tool belt and back to the classroom that makes you a stronger teacher. It empowers you.”

Dauterive will give the summit’s afternoon EdTalk session on “Teaching with Unlimited Perspective.” “For me, it means that every child can learn when there are no preconceived notions or limitations based on race or gender,” she says.

Clay Dagler, Credential ’02, who teaches high school computer science in south Sacramento, will speak in the morning on the importance of including his subject in high school curricula. “Computer science is a huge field today,” he says. “There are a lot of jobs available, and most high schools don’t offer computer science classes.”

Dagler says Sacramento State provided him not just with practical skills to use in the classroom like lesson planning, but also the relational and communications skills essential to working as an educator.

“I’m from a really small town that’s not as diverse as Sacramento,” he says. “Sac State taught me how to connect with the parents and the students. Definitely the nuts and bolts, but also the relationship piece.”

For Dauterive, it was the relationships she built while a student on campus, and the lessons that stemmed from those relationships, that were most helpful once she began her career.

“I had two teachers who were a guiding light for me,” she says. “Sac State and those two teachers made me a stronger teacher and a more confident teacher, and helped me to know what my value was in the classroom and what I could bring to the classroom.”

To learn more about the California Teachers Summit, visit cateacherssummit.com.

 

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Alumnus Daniel Hahn set to become next Sacramento police chief

Daniel Hahn ’95 (Marketing), grew up in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood and rose through the ranks as an officer and captain with the Sacramento Police Department. Now, he’s set to return to his hometown as the city’s first African American police chief.

Hahn has conditionally accepted an offer to assume the department’s top job, pending a background check and certification, The Sacramento Bee reported last week. Since 2011, he has served as the police chief in nearby Roseville.

“I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve the community and police department that has given so much to me,” Hahn told the Bee.

In a subsequent column, the Bee’s Marcos Breton documented Hahn’s rise from a young Oak Park resident — who was arrested briefly at the age of 16 — raised by a single mother, to a reluctant college student who never envisioned a career in law enforcement, to a respected police official set to take the reins at his hometown department.

“What Hahn didn’t realize then was that a community of people was growing around him,” Breton wrote. “What he didn’t realize then was that his connection to community in Sacramento would become his life’s calling. That community of people would keep him in law enforcement for good. It would correct him when he needed correcting, and it would fill him with the belief that law enforcement was about community. And yes, Hahn’s connection to Oak Park and Sacramento would be the primary reason for his selection as chief.”

Hahn is the latest in a long line of Hornets serving in law enforcement leadership positions, a list that includes former Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. He also will become the third consecutive Sacramento police chief to be “Made at Sac State”: Both former Chief Sam Somers Jr. ’88 (Criminal Justice) and current Interim Chief Brian Louie ’12 (Criminal Justice) are Sac State alums.

Alums’ new company blends art and tech under one roof

Step into Obra, a new company located in a warehouse just north of midtown Sacramento, and it’s quickly apparent you’re seeing something different. Workbenches and giant wood cutting tables sit next to a room full of computers and soldering irons. Beyond that, there’s a dance floor – built in-house – complete with mirrors and a barre.

Obra, founded by Sacramento State alumni Isela Perez ’12 (Journalism) and Brandon Ortiz ’15 (Computer Engineering), opened its doors in January and probably is best described through its name: The word means “work of art” in Spanish, and the warehouse is part maker’s space, part dance studio. The company is founded on the belief that through combining their talents – Perez is a dancer who studied journalism, Ortiz studied computer engineering and has a background in product design and development – they can create, and help others create, something stronger and more meaningful.

“We realized how much art has an impact on creativity,” Ortiz says. “Even if it’s programming, where you can get into this mindset of just grinding and doing strictly technical work, if you step back and think about the artistic or creative aspect of what you’re doing, you tend to find better solutions to the problem.”

Perez and Ortiz met three years ago at a sports bar in Sacramento, and even from their initial conversations knew they had a lot in common, including a desire to create something new and unique. They just didn’t know specifically what that was yet.

Both transferred to Sacramento State from community college – Perez transferred from Sacramento City College, Ortiz attended Sierra College in Rocklin before working to design control systems for an elevator company – and says both the perspective of being older than the traditional student as well as the accessibility of their professors helped them get the most out of their time on campus.

“We valued education a lot and I think that’s what motivated us to get close with our professors, to be able to talk with them,” Perez says. “You realize, ‘I could have been doing this with high school, I could have been really connecting with professors, with my peers, and taking advantage of more. Sac State was definitely welcoming for someone who wanted to go as far as they could.”

In 2015, a six-month trip to Nicaragua where, Ortiz says, “we just had each other,” taught them both how to respond to new challenges and live a minimalist life. “We found happiness from creating. We wanted to build a place where we can create and use our skills and the experience we picked up to help other people create.”

Obra’s revenue comes through dance classes Perez offers at the studio – she also works part time as a dancer for the Sacramento Kings – as well as various other projects and partnerships, such as creating stencils for a group that wanted to use street art to promote this year’s Sacramento Concerts in the Park lineup. The company also is set up to sell the products that are made in its work space. Its current partners include the maker of a large LED chandelier that can be used as an art display or centerpiece at special events, as well as Sacramento State’s own Hornet Hyperloop team, for which they are helping to develop control systems.

The art and the tech go hand-in-hand: Ortiz began dancing about a year ago, giving him a creative outlet when he needs a break from product development. Perez says the same about learning to program. They encourage their partners to utilize the dance space – even a couple of the Hyperloop team members have started to wander over to the studio side of the warehouse.

“It’s a group of engineering students, probably not the most likely to jump out on the dance floor, but we’ve got some of them moving,” Ortiz says.

The couple spend 12-14 hours a day in the studio, seven days a week. But they say the ability to spend each day creating something new continues to motivate them, as well as the belief that they have built something that isn’t just unique, but necessary.

“I think (something like Obra) was missing,” Perez says. “A place that you can create without a boundary. I don’t think there’s ever an idea that we’ll say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that,’ or, ‘No, we don’t know about that.’ Bring us your idea, and we’ll try our best to make it happen.”