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MDUSD Profile - Heather Fontanilla

Dr. Heather Fontanilla has been part of Team MDUSD since 1998 when she started her teaching career at the Digital Safari Academy (DSA) at Mount Diablo High School. Prior to teaching, Dr. Fontanilla practiced law in Southern California and the Bay Area. Most recently, she served as the MDUSD Career Pathways Program Specialist and has now been appointed Administrator of College Now/Career Pathways.


Dr. Fontanilla connects her role to the district’s work in providing a first-rate education to students in this way: “By exposing students to possible careers that are connected to their interests and helping them to develop a pathway to those careers, what they are learning in their high school classes becomes more meaningful. Additionally, providing students with an opportunity to earn early college credit helps defray the cost of post-secondary options as well as provides an opportunity for students to see that they can "do" college.”


How does our district serve students through the CTE/Pathway programs?

First and foremost, the career pathways provide students with the opportunity to explore careers in a specific industry sector.  They are given industry-related skills, while meeting with community partners, going on industry-related field trips, and, in some cases, participate in internships related to their industry field. Additionally, career pathways provide students with the opportunity to develop the transferrable skills that they can take with them into any career they choose.  These skills include critical thinking & problem solving, professionalism, and collaboration.  


What are some program successes you’d like to highlight?

We have a partnership with Sutter Health and Alta Bates where students will take a class at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, earning college credit.  Students who are successful in the class participate in a paid internship.  The program is called Youth Bridge. Last year we had six students complete the program, with students doing internships at John Muir Health and the VA hospital in Oakland.  This year, Sutter Health has given us 20 spots to fill.


We also had 26 students participate in a summer internship this summer, earning high school credit and participating in a meaningful work experience.  The internship locations included Concord Youth Center, Ambrose Community Center, John Muir Health, Monument Crisis Center, Lettuce In & Zen Toolworks.


What does the future of these programs look like?  New opportunities or partnerships?

This year we are working closely with our community partners to strengthen our Career Pathway Advisory Committee.  We envision a Career Pathway Advisory Committee where there is rich collaboration between educators and industry partners to review and develop curriculum that is more in line with industry standards.  We have some tremendous partners supporting our Digital Safari Innovation Fair and are expanding these relationships. We are looking to our industry partners to provide advice on the skills students need to enter the workforce.


Why are you #MDUSDProud? 

“This is my 20th year at MDUSD. I love the students and the families. They are eager to have new and different educational experiences. I love the teachers. I have had the honor of working with dedicated and hard-working individuals who give so much of themselves. They love MDUSD students and work to provide the best educational experiences.”