Dora Fabelo

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Executive Director for Human Resources, Retired, Austin Independent School District


Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, 2008
M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, 1987


I arrived in Austin, Texas in 1977 without a valid Texas teaching certificate. I attended UT Austin as a non-degree seeking student in order to fulfill the requirements to become a teacher. After fulfilling the requirements, I started working as a bilingual teacher in the Austin ISD. During my early days as a student at UT Austin, I encountered wonderful professors and staff members at the Department of Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) who helped and inspired me to seek an advanced degree.

Years of collaboration, including research, professional development, involvement in Proyecto Maestria and other opportunities were instrumental in my desire to seek a doctorate in C&I. I went back to graduate school all while working as a school administrator. This time around, I collaborated with the Department of C&I in projects and initiatives so it was a natural progression to go back to seek a doctorate. After graduation, I was also able to be a lecturer for C&I. I taught the introductory course in foundations of bilingual education. This was a great opportunity for me and would love to continue doing so in the future.

There are so many people in C&I who helped me along the way. In particular, there are some individuals who deserve to be mentioned because their support was instrumental to my success—Dr. George Blanco; Dr. Deb Palmer; Dr. Cinthia Salinas; Dr. Haydee Rodríguez; Dr. María Fránquiz; Dr. Norvell Northcutt; Dr. Alba Ortiz; Dr. Elaine Horwitz; Dr. Jim Scheurich; Dr. Katherine McKenzie; and a fellow graduate student and colleague, Dr. Jenny Wilson.

Why UT?

The University of Texas at Austin was a perfect fit for my advanced studies. I was teaching in Austin ISD, classes were scheduled after work, and it had a solid program in bilingual education. I earned a master’s degree and continued to seek advancement in my career as well. Although I enjoyed being a bilingual teacher, I decided to go in a different direction. Having an advanced degree opened the doors for me to seek a certification in mid-management, which in turn preempted my career as a school administrator in the Austin ISD. In time, my experience as a bilingual teacher, elementary assistant principal, and national literacy consultant assisted me in becoming principal at two schools in the Austin ISD: Cook and Blazier Elementaries. One of the highlights of my career was being the founding principal of Blazier, which opened its doors in 2007.

During my tenure as principal at both schools, I continued my relationships with the Department of C&I at the University. I remained in contact with graduate students in the department and with many of my former professors. Those relationships led to various research and training opportunities on the campuses I worked at, as well as, other collaborative work. As a school leader, having UT present on the campuses was important in leading the work we were doing.  The learning opportunities were great and it provided state of the art professional development for the teachers and us all.

Life After UT

Presently, I serve as Director of Recruiting and Staffing for the Austin ISD. In that position, I am charged with recruiting and staffing all schools in the district, including administrative, classified, professional and substitute positions. One of the challenges we face is the recruitment of bilingual teachers. My experience, background, and association with UT Austin, in particular with the Department of C&I, have been very valuable in this position. I continue to work with faculty and staff of several departments and seek opportunities to collaborate with different programs.

Advice for Students

In retrospect, I think about the times as a graduate student as one of the best times in my professional career. I believe graduate school is enhanced by the experiences you bring to the program. You must be focused on attaining the goal at hand and be willing to set aside things that can wait for later. I learned that having a strong support system is essential as well as mentors who will walk by your side along the way and help you. I would not be where I am without that support system and for that I am grateful!