Alumni Spotlight

Maria Zavala ‘06

Joliet native Maria Zavala is a young educator who is making a big impact in her community.

The 2006 graduate was honored in September with an inaugural award from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Zavala is a second-grade bilingual teacher at Parks Cultural Studies Academy in Joliet and was one of six recipients of the 2009 Associated Colleges of Illinois’ Arne Duncan Award for Education Equity.

The award recognizes individuals who reflect Duncan’s commitment to innovative and collaborative ventures to improve teacher quality, advance school improvement and close the gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

“University of St. Francis really teaches you how to integrate service education in the classroom and focus on helping the community,” Zavala said. “I want the students and families I work with to know that we’re in this together.”

As an undergraduate student, Zavala twice traveled to Sucre, Bolivia, where she volunteered in community agencies and translated for professional development programs updating Bolivian teachers on best teaching practices.

Zavala is currently pursuing her master’s degree at USF.