By Brianna Lusk
Valley Women Writer
3:01 PM PDT, April 27, 2011
When Magali Meza, originally from France, initially signed up to study abroad at San Diego State University, she figured the college would be located near its namesake city. But while making living arrangements for her year abroad, Meza found something curious in the fine print.
“I realized I was going to the Imperial Valley Campus,” Meza laughs. “At first it was a shock coming here, especially in late August, with temperatures well above 110 F.”
Despite her reservations, Meza embraced the chance to study in a bicultural area and says it inspired her to learn Spanish.
“I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to spend a year in the United States and study at SDSU. I tried to make the most of it. It was a very positive experience for me,” Meza recalls.
Life unexpectedly took a turn, and Meza says she realized the Imperial Valley is a great community. She recently celebrated 10 years of living here.
“I ended up staying,” she says with a laugh.
Now her international business experience is put to use in her job with the Imperial County Office of Education, where Meza is an outreach specialist. She handles several projects locally and statewide as part of the K-12 High Speed Network that ICOE manages.
Meza admits it’s difficult to pin down her role at ICOE to a few characteristics, but her daily work involves a mix of marketing while promoting services to creating flyers and logos, working on the website to update information and administering grant projects like Thinkfinity, which is funded by the Verizon Foundation.
As the state administrator for the Thinkfinity program, Meza helps spread the word about free online resources for teachers by creating a network of trainers who return to their respective school sites and share the resources with their staff.
“I really have multiple hats,” Meza confesses.
Meza graduated from San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus with a master’s degree in business administration. She had previously studied in Canada and worked in Paris in the communications department for an investment bank.
Originally from a fairly small community called Aurillac, six hours south of Paris, Meza explain that as part of her graduate studies she was encouraged to study abroad.
After graduation, she extended her student visa and worked for a Brawley software publishing company for several years.
“It was a great job for me because it was exactly what I had studied and had experience with after working in France. I was excited about this opportunity to stay in the Valley,” Meza admits.
Meza fell in love with a fellow student at SDSU and married him a few years later. Meza’s 2-year-old son speaks French and Spanish. The couple has plans to teach their son English soon.
“He is the highlight of my life,” she says of her son.
Adjustment to life in the United States was not that difficult, aside from learning Spanish. Now virtually fluent in the language, Meza says she loves raising her son in a small community.
“My parents are retired, and my mom has a little snowbird attitude. She loves to come here in January and stays with us for several months,” explains Meza.
Since she started with ICOE, Meza has moved on from being a web developer to being promoted to outreach specialist. Tasked with reaching teachers throughout California, Meza says her job challenges her programming skills and creativity on a regular basis.
“It’s a huge audience we’re trying to reach. One of the challenges we have is to be able to communicate and reach out to 100 percent of the teachers in California. There are many free resources that are available to educators, and sometimes they’re not aware of it,” notes Meza.
Teri Sanders, director of outreach and special projects with ICOE, says Meza has risen to every challenge willingly and with success.
“She has a smooth way of interacting with our departments, helping them put their best faces forward, and training them to use web development tools so they can update their own content on the website,” Sanders explains. “She shoulders new work willingly, is always smiling and has earned fans all over the state for her prompt attention to support requests.”
Meza’s love for her burgeoning career with ICOE comes as it requires her to use a diverse set of skills, transforming her knowledge regularly to meet the demands of emerging resources.
The Thinkfinity project, for example, is aimed at aiding teachers to use more technology in the classroom and find assistance easily.
“Instead of searching in Google, teachers can search through a platform and automatically find content that is matched to state standards. It’s a different way of searching that allows teachers to find high quality resources, lesson plans, student interactives, and primary source documents from some of the most trusted names in education,” Meza relates.
With the continued move to more digitally capable classrooms and technology integration, Meza says webinars held for instructors help reach more teachers in remote school sites all over the state.
“We hear a lot of talking about the 21st century skills, and that’s something we’re all trying to push for. We’re hoping to facilitate the work of teachers by giving them access to high-quality online resources,” Meza adds.
Sanders says Meza’s dedication and knowledge is part of ICOE’s mission to continue reaching more teachers.
“She became an invaluable addition to the staff,” Sanders reveals. “As new challenges and opportunities have been presented to her, Meza has never failed to rise to the challenge.”
In addition to assisting with the K-12 High Speed Network projects, Meza says she is excited to participate in the launch of a new initiative called “Brokers of Expertise,” which creates an online community whereby teachers can share instructional best practices.
“We think it’s going to have a significant impact on the conversation and dialogue of teachers helping other teachers with new ideas,” Meza emphasizes.
Meanwhile, Meza says she spends her free time with her son, traveling and continuing her love of photography.
It does not escape her, the interesting turn her life took more than 10 years ago that led her to the Imperial Valley.
But now, it is the place she calls home.
“It was a turning point. I think it’s a great place to live, it’s a great community,” Meza says. “I enjoy knowing that the impact of all these tools and services we provide to the schools locally and throughout California has a great potential to improve teaching and learning. I love my job.”
Copyright © 2013, Imperial Valley Press