Faculty Spotlight!

Sara Werner Juarez, Assistant Professor
Literacy, Early, Bilingual, and Special Education

Sara Werner Juarez

Dr. Sara Werner Juarez is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Literacy, Early, Bilingual, and Special Education (LEBSE) Department in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. She teaches undergraduate, credential, and graduate courses in the liberal studies, multiple subject, single subject, and special education credential programs. Dr. Juarez earned a Ph.D. in Education, with an emphasis in Special Education at Claremont Graduate University and a M.S. in Special Education and credential to teach students with moderate to severe disabilities from CSU Long Beach. Previously, Dr. Juarez worked as a postdoctoral fellow with the IRIS Center, a federally funded center that provides free online resources for education professionals. Her research focuses on supporting teachers’ implementation of evidence-based and inclusive practices, especially to improve outcomes for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Juarez grew up in Long Beach, California, where her mom was a life-long elementary school teacher and dad was a second-career middle school educator. Her brother became a teacher and then assistant principal, while her sister broke from family tradition and is a marriage and family therapist. Despite the lineage of educators, Dr. Juarez insisted she would choose a different field (her high school dream was to move to Costa Rica and take up zip-lining and sunbathing, after all). But after taking a gap year to explore Europe, she returned to Long Beach and became a substitute teacher, often teaching special education classes. It didn’t take long for her to find her passion for teaching students with significant learning needs, especially challenging behaviors. Dr. Juarez became an intern teacher for students with moderate to severe disabilities in 2006 and continued to teach for six years. She loved the challenge of meeting the individual academic, social, and behavioral needs of her students, as well as seeing the progress they made during their time in her classroom. Dr. Juarez was drawn to higher education through her desire to prepare future teachers.

The best moments of her career have always involved her students' progress, whether in the K-12 classroom or in her credential courses. There is no better feeling than seeing their improvement, like when one student progressed from sounding out letters to reading at a second grade level or another student spoke and had conversations for the first time after six years of being silent in school. At the higher education level, the best feedback is knowing students find coursework meaningful and relevant for their work in the classroom as they translate their knowledge into practice.

Dr. Juarez is married to her partner and BFF of almost 10 years, Benito, and has a toddler son, Lincoln (aka El Patron, aka the Boss Baby). They also share their home with Benito’s mother, Luz. They spend their free time playing outside, going to the park, and visiting family in Long Beach, LA, and San Francisco. They also hope to take advantage of Fresno’s proximity to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia as the weather warms up.

Her teaching tip for faculty is to be flexible with students, try new ways of teaching, and be bold as they challenge themselves to move away from traditional methods (lecture, tests, textbooks, etc.). Give students a variety of ways to access the course content, demonstrate their learning, and engage in the course, with you, and with their peers.

The Center for Faculty Excellence has been an outstanding resource for the university. Everyone is ready to support faculty in redesigning their courses to be more student-centered, transforming the experience for Fresno State students. DISCOVERe, Online Bootcamp, access to faculty learning communities, and online training have all contributed to my development as an educator, beyond my pedagogical training as a K-12 teacher. Making courses more accessible, whether face-to-face or online, has supported student learning and achievement. These initiatives are what contribute to making Fresno State a fantastic university that acts as a change agent for students, especially first-generation college students and those with non-traditional paths into and through the university system.