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OLLI Award Winner Helps Students Find Their Love for Literature

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Mavis Gonzalez first discovered her love for reading at the age of 6. As a child, nights and weekends were often spent engrossed in a book, and after bedtime she would even sneak a book and flashlight under the blankets. Fast forward to entering college, Mavis knew that she wanted to take this passion and turn it into a career.

Literature and reading stayed with Mavis all throughout her educational and professional life, from earning a bachelor’s in Social Ecology at UCI, to entering UCI’s teacher credentialing program, to becoming a Media Specialist at an Irvine elementary school, and finally to being a Literacy/Instructional coach for Irvine Unified School District (IUSD), where she has worked for the past 37 years.

Mavis found that not all her students at IUSD enjoyed reading, especially those who struggled to comprehend what they read, so she sought ways to improve her instructional practices and meet everyone’s learning needs. “I thrived in learning and sharing my knowledge in the classroom and designing and presenting professional development trainings across IUSD, further impacting students’ literacy growth,” said Mavis.

In 2018, Mavis took the advice of an IUSD administrator and joined the Master’s program for Reading and Literacy at California State University, Fullerton. Through this program, Mavis hoped that she could help other teachers become more effective literacy instructors, which in turn would help more students discover a love for literature. “I can confidently say that I accomplished my goal,” Mavis remarked. “It may have taken me 40 years, but as I tell my students, if you want it, you can achieve it, no matter what the ‘it’ is.“

Mavis has now been awarded the Betty Robinson Award by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), an educational program at Cal State Fullerton that provides opportunities for older adults to continue learning in a university setting. This prestigious award was named for one of OLLI’s founders, Elizabeth “Betty” Robinson, and it recognizes an older graduate who represents the values of lifelong learning.

Following the Master’s program, Mavis looks forward to continuing her role as a literacy coach at IUSD. “I now have the time to model lessons, co-teach lessons, coach individual teachers, and provide professional development that meets the individual professional learning needs of my staff.” She is fueled not only by her lifelong passion for reading but also by her desire to help students succeed.

“When teachers’ voices are heard and their learning needs are met, their students’ progress is guaranteed. I will have a greater impact on student learning in this new position than I did in my own classroom. A win for all.”

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal State Fullerton ( is administered by CSUF Extension & International Programs (EIP). OLLI provides active older adults with opportunities to continue learning, engage with peers, serve the campus and local communities, and to support and enhance the activities of the University. To learn more about EIP, visit

Debbie Vengco