Bill Zahner, Josue Gonzalez, Kevin Pelaez, Ernesto Calleros, Lynda Wynn, and Brenda Melendrez

About Us

Dr. William Zahner is an associate professor in the mathematics and statistics department at San Diego State University. Zahner’s research investigates how to design secondary mathematics classrooms to improve student learning, with a special focus on meeting the needs of English Learners in secondary mathematics classes. In addition to directing this project, Zahner is also co-PI of another project investigating the affordances of dynamic representational technology for fostering abstract and quantitative reasoning among linguistically diverse middle school students. Prior to joining the faculty at SDSU, Zahner was an assistant professor in the School of Education at Boston University. Zahner earned his doctorate and master’s degrees at UC Santa Cruz, and his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Boston College.


Kevin Pelaez is a graduate student in the Mathematics and Science Education joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego. He earned a B.A. in mathematics from the University of San Diego and an M.S. in statistics from San Diego State University. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Kevin taught mathematics at the high school and college level as well as high school AVID and statistics. His research interests include exploring Latinx experiences within STEM as well as statistics and data science education.


Ernesto Calleros is a PhD student in the Mathematics and Science Education joint doctoral program at University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University. He earned a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Texas A&M University and an M.A. in Mathematics from Rice University. Prior to enrolling in the PhD program, Ernesto taught college-level mathematics. His research interests include the teaching, learning, and thinking in university mathematics. He also enjoys working with the mELd team in making mathematics learning linguistically accessible to all students, especially English language learners.


April Zuniga was raised in Tijuana where she completed her preschool to high school education. She came to San Diego when she was eighteen in search of a better future. She applied to Southwestern College not knowing a single word of English. After learning English and completing enough credits, she obtained her Associates Degree and transferred to San Diego State University. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics (Single Subject Teaching) in December 2019. She feels really honored to participate in the project since she was once an English Learner and knows how difficult and frustrating learning a second language can be. Her hobbies include spending time with her family and friends and working on completing a Bilingual Teaching Credential Program at San Diego State University.


Perla Abeldaño is a recent summer graduate from SDSU with B.A. in Liberal Studies with a Math Emphasis. Born in Tijuana, Perla is a transborder student who received most of her primary and secondary education in Barrio Logan. Perla transferred from San Diego Mesa College into SDSU in the Fall of 2018, and she is currently enrolled in the Dual Language and English Learner Education SDSU single subject teaching credential program to obtain a bilingual teaching credential in Mathematics. She planes on becoming a math teacher and obtaining a master’s degree. Perla is currently part of a residency program with the Sweetwater High School District where she is currently doing her student teaching. 


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José Antonio Parra graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A in Liberal Arts and Sciences Mathematics. Prior to joining mEld, José worked as a bilingual tutor at local high schools in San Diego and is currently pursuing his single subject teaching credential with the goal to work in a local linguistically diverse high school. His research interests are bilingual education and social justice in the math class.


mELd Project Alumni

Yessika Kassandra Gamala graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Mathematics in Spring 2019. She is currently pursuing a single subject teaching credential in Math at SDSU and is teaching middle school mathematics. She started as a Undergraduate Research Assistant with DMELL project before joining the mELd team.

Lynda Wynn is a graduate of the Mathematics and Science Eduction joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego.  She earned a B.A. in Mathematics from Point Loma Nazarene University and an M.A. in Mathematics from San Diego State University. She is currently a faculty member at CSU Stanislaus.  Her research interests include studying the preparation of secondary mathematics teachers at the undergraduate level and working with the mELd team.  Prior to enrolling in graduate school, Lynda taught secondary mathematics for sixteen years.


Josue Gonzalez earned his bachelors in Mathematics (Single subject Teaching) at SDSU May 2018. He completed his mathematics credential at SDSU and is currently teaching mathematics at the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter (CLCC) High School. He was a research assistant for the mELd program and was an undergraduate research scholar as part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates on the DMELL project. He loves music, movies, and math (what more can you ask for).


Brenda Melendrez My name is Brenda Lee Melendrez and I was born  in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. I lived my childhood moving between Guadalajara and Tijuana. I learned Spanish informally due to my parents and I learned academic Spanish due to public education in Mexico. At the age of fourteen, I moved with my mother and two brothers to the United States to escape domestic violence. We arrived to the United States with the dream of having a better life. In school, I was classified as an “English learner” and this label has been embedded into my identity since the day I learned how people made assumptions about the person that I am. The reality is that I struggled a lot to learn English, but, I found refuge in mathematics. Throughout my high school life, I took advanced mathematics and I continued to take math courses at community college. While trying to get a degree, I worked as a math and science tutor for four years for a public school. I had the opportunity to help students who, like me, struggle to learn a new language and mathematics at the same time. In 2018, I was given the opportunity to work as a research assistant under two projects, Dmell and mELD, both with the purpose to find ways to make math accessible for students from diverse backgrounds. I graduated in 2018 with Bachelors in Mathematics from SDSU and am now a mathematics teacher at CVLCC High School.


Irania Rivera graduated from SDS with a Cellular and Molecular Biology degree. She loves Harry Potter and anything space related.


Anthony Villarreal is a third year PhD student at San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University’s Joint Doctoral Program in Education. He earned a master’s degree in Counseling from Lewis and Clark College and a bachelor’s degree from Portland State University. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Anthony’s seven-year career in education primarily entailed working with students promoting college access, guiding students in the transition from high school to college.


Carren Walker is a graduate student in the Mathematics and Science Education joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego. During her 20-year career as a math teacher and teacher educator, Carren sought to understand how to create classroom communities where each student can access and contribute to emerging mathematical ideas. As a fourth-year graduate student, her research focuses on supporting teachers’ identification of discourse interactions that engage students in the use of quantitative reasoning to make sense of proportions and rates. The mELd projects’ attention to supporting precision in classroom mathematical language is of particular interest to her.


Alicia Prieto was “just a simple suffering college student” (quotation hers) who pursued a bachelor’s degree in astronomy with a minor in mathematics. Alicia graduated in Spring 2016. She  worked as the first undergraduate  research assistant the mELd project.


Hayley Milbourne is a graduate of the Mathematics and Science Education joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego. Her research investigates the ways in which graduate teaching assistants make sense of various teaching practices and how we can better support them in this process. She is also interested in the ways mathematics and language interact to raise or lower the difficulty level of mathematics problems and is excited for the opportunity to work on the mELd project. She earned a B.S. in Scientific Computation – Mathematics from the University of California, San Diego and a M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona. Currently, she is the director of the Mathematics Learning Center at the University of San Diego.