Maria Luisa Portuondo was awarded the BC John A. Dinneen, SJ, Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award.
Ms. Portuondo is a Boston College graduate who received her masters’ degree in Special Education in 1973. Since then, Ms. Portuondo has been a tireless driver of school reform for bilingual students with disabilities in order to improve the life chances for a “better life”. One of very few Latina women with masters’ degrees back in the 1970s, she understood that without an education she couldn’t help bilingual students accomplish all they could! She also knew that the Latino community was growing and that children needed an educator who could understand what is was like to be a minority and an English language learner. She understood Latino families needed help in learning how to navigate the education system in the US and she knew she could help!
Maria Luisa has been a teacher, mentor, director, speaker, advocate, cultural advisor, volunteer, and consultant for bilingual children with special education needs and continues to tirelessly support this mission. She has held a variety of positions in our community and has made significant impact for the Latino community in every one of these positions. As a teacher she has impacted many students by helping them be prepared to be contributing members of the society, as teacher educator, she has trained teachers in many capacities to be able to be more culturally responsive to students from different backgrounds and languages. As a leader she has helped shape policy efforts that support the maintenance of bilingual students native language to support development of English by working for the MA Department of Education and disseminated knowledge to support this via conference presentations, research projects, and workshop trainings. Although now retired she continues to provide consultation service for parents teachers, schools, and professional organizations because she know people need to know how to serve bilingual children with special education needs and there are not enough people with her rich experience working with Latino children and their families right now.
Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for Understood.org and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.
Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.