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The Seventh Degree
Newport Beach kindergarten teacher earns CSUF doctorate.

July 3, 2007 :: No. 1

To his kindergarten students at Newport Heights Elementary School, he is “Dr. Hernandez.”

With seven academic degrees under his belt, including two doctorates and numerous teaching credentials and certificates, some may wonder why Dave Hernandez wants to teach 5- and 6-year-olds.

Hernandez is one of the first recipients of Cal State Fullerton’s doctorate in education (Ed.D.), awarded in May through a joint program between Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. He also holds a Ph.D. in executive management.

After her 6-year-old daughter, Melanie, was enrolled in his class, Gina Perry wondered, what he was doing teaching kindergarten. But after witnessing his teaching style, she knows why.

“He’s very organized and he knows what he is doing. You can see the excitement when he teaches. He’s got a soft heart, and he just loves teaching the kids,” Perry said.

“He’s a well-qualified teacher!” said Gina Miracle, mother of 5-year-old Avalon and a classroom volunteer, agreed. “He has a lot of patience and he works well with the kids. He has good control of the class and they listen to him.”

Kurt Suhr, his principal at the Newport Beach school, said it is rare for a kindergarten teacher to hold one doctorate, let alone two.

“It speaks to his high level of dedication to be a lifelong learner and pursue education,” Suhr said. “He’s living and breathing what we always state to our students. We need more people like Dave Hernandez in education, no doubt about it.

Hernandez, who earned his Ed.D. in educational administration and leadership with a  dissertation on how principals can support beginning teachers, is convinced that kindergarten is the most important year in a child’s educational life.

“I want to reach children as soon as possible so I can show them the joy of learning,” said Hernandez. It’s a joy he himself learned from his mother.

In the 1920s, late grandfather left El Monte, Mexico, near Guadalajara, for the small farming community of Harrow, Ontario, within 25 miles of Detroit. Hernandez and his relatives were the only Mexican families in the area.

Hernandez’s mother, who is of British descent, taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Canada and shared her love of teaching and reading with him and his five siblings. The Newport Beach kindergarten teacher credits his mother for the inspiration that brought him back to the classroom.

After 17 years in the business world, Hernandez switched to teaching for the personal and professional rewards. “I really enjoyed the challenges in business, but the feelings of gratitude and appreciation that I get from students was lacking.”

He began teaching in 1997 at Lou Henry Hoover Elementary School in Whittier, and during his nine years in the district, he taught kindergarten and undertook administrative and vice principal duties. He began teaching at Newport Heights Elementary last fall.

This summer, the Newport Beach resident is lecturing on educational program evaluation at UC Irvine. Over the past year, Hernandez taught master’s students in CSUF’s educational leadership program and currently assists other doctoral candidates with their dissertations. Long-term he hopes to become a principal role and work with doctoral students full-time.

“His love of teaching is evident; he combines a very strong intellect with a strong desire to help people,” said Louise Adler, chair and professor of educational leadership, who was Hernandez’s dissertation adviser at Cal State Fullerton.

But for now, Hernandez is content with teaching kindergarten.

On a recent school day in Room 5, he played the piano while his students stood in front of the classroom and rehearsed the “Hymn of the Proud Kindergartener,” prompting them with the words he wrote to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” for their June graduation ceremony.

“We focus so much on academics that bringing in other talents, like music adds fun in the classroom,” said Hernandez. “I love seeing the kids happy and mastering something. For me, knowing that I’m helping them get a good start in life is the joy of my job.”

Media Contacts:

Louise Adler of Educational Leadership, 657-278-7673 or
Debra Cano Ramos of Public Affairs, 657-278-4027 or

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Dave Hernandez and William Harvey
Dave Hernandez helps student William Harvey read "The Cat in the Hat Comes

Click to download image

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