Lake Tahoe Community College honoring Bijou principal with distinguished alumni award | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe Community College honoring Bijou principal with distinguished alumni award

Cindy Martinez

Lake Tahoe Community College will honor Bijou Community School Principal Cindy Martinez Friday, June 29, during the college's commencement ceremony.

Martinez will receive the "Distinguished Alumni Award," which the LTCC Foundation bestows upon one recipient each year based on their "exemplary achievements in academic, business, artistic or civic activities," according to a press release.

Martinez serves as the educational leader of the Bijou Community School and the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program in South Lake Tahoe. She is responsible for working with other district teams to support the development and articulation of the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program system-wide, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

"We're so proud of Cindy's many accomplishments, and are excited about the bright future she's got ahead of her," LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco said in a press release. "As a first-generation college student, she's an outstanding role model for so many of LTCC's students, more than a third of whom are the first in their families to attend college, just like Cindy. Many people at LTCC know her very well and are thrilled about her receiving this award — it is well deserved."

“Many people at LTCC know her very well and are thrilled about her receiving this award

— it is well deserved.”Jeff DeFrancoLTCC Superintendent/President

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Martinez was born in South Lake Tahoe, but left with her family to Mexico to attend primary school. She moved back to town as she started ninth grade — and said she quickly realized how difficult it was to be academically strong but not have the necessary English skills.

"My own personal experience got me into education," she said in the press release. "Learning the necessary academics and English at the same time without a program in place to support that was a struggle. South Tahoe High counselors Tere Tibbetts and Aaron Barnett (both are now academic counselors at LTCC) were instrumental in ensuring that we were exposed to the right level of academic work so we could reach our potential."

Martinez then attended LTCC, where she graduated from in 2002 with an associate degree in liberal studies. She used savings from work to transfer to California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), where she earned her bachelor's in liberal studies. She continued to earn her bilingual, cross-cultural, language and academic development teaching credentials in 2005.

She eventually earned her master's degree in educational leadership and administrative credentials in 2011. While at CSUS, Martinez began working with the university's migrant education program, providing tutoring and teaching support to farm-worker families.

"This inspired me to go into teaching," Martinez said.

While at a training event in Sacramento, Martinez ran into Sue O'Connor, director of LTCC's Intensive Spanish Summer Institute (ISSI).

"Sue urged me to think about coming back to Tahoe, as the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion program was just being developed and launched. I could explore my passion for dual language and work closely with families I knew personally."

Martinez started at Bijou as a first grade teacher. Eventually she moved into school administration in 2013, and has served as principal at Bijou Community School for the past five years.

"It was a little scary at first, being a young person and new to the whole administrator thing," Martinez said. "Now you're the leader. I make sure I hear everyone's feedback while still keeping an eye on the big picture. It's important to have that vision and know where you want to end up, so you don't get redirected."

Martinez has volunteered with many different organizations during her career. She is a CSUS Multicultural Conference volunteer, is part of the Latino Literacy Project, was a Family Resource Center Board member from 2013 to 2016, a member of the Tahoe Women's Community Fund, a community member serving on the 2016 LTCC Presidential Screening Committee, and is part of the Administrative Leadership Academy at the El Dorado County Office of Education.

"It is a great honor to be acknowledged as a distinguished LTCC student, and to receive this acknowledgment," said Martinez. "I am thankful to be able to share my personal experience and my passion for working in a bilingual, bi-literal and multicultural environment with the youth of our community. I am thankful for all the people that have supported and motivated me to challenge myself and explore new worlds. I'm inviting you to say 'yes' to new opportunities, even though they may be scary. The world is full of people that will guide you and help you to confront your challenges and fears. Your efforts and dedication will ensure that your dreams will come true. The first step is to dream. What would you change?"

Commencement Ceremony

The event begins at 6 p.m. Friday, June 29, on LTCC’s soccer field. The event will be live streamed — head to bit.ly/LTCCgrad to watch. For more information, contact Julie Booth at 530-541-4660 ext. 477, or email booth@ltcc.edu. Information about the ceremony also is available at http://www.ltcc.edu/graduation.