An East Oakland Odyssey
Exploring the Love of Reading in a Small School
Elena Aguilar, ASCEND. Oakland, CA

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Bio and Contact Info

I was born and raised in London, England to a Jewish mother and a Costa Rican father who only ended up in the UK due to the political turmoil of the 1960s.  It’s always been a challenge to answer the question, “Where are you from?”  When Margaret Thatcher came to power, my mother relocated us to Orange County, California where her parents lived.  Upon graduating from high school, I fled to the University of California at Santa Cruz where I finally found a community of like-minded folk.  In 1991, I graduated with a BA in history and Latin American Studies. 

After living abroad for a couple years, I returned to the Bay Area and joined Teach for America.  I was placed in the Oakland Unified School District and got a teaching credential from Cal State Hayward.  In 1998, I took a break from teaching to complete a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.   

I wanted to be a teacher since I was five years old and taught my brother to read.  I come from a long line of educators, dating back to my Polish maternal grandfather who’s last name was Skolnick, meaning “School teacher.”  I have taught for over ten years both bilingual elementary classes as well as humanities at the middle school, high school and college level.  In 2001, I accepted the position of humanities middle school teacher at ASCEND the first year we opened.  The three years I have taught there have been the most rewarding and exciting of my professional life. 

In December 2003, my son, Orion Sikelela Aguilar Goodman, was born.  In addition to my ethnic mish-mash, he will have a harder time responding to questions about his ethnicity as his father is African American.  He is now my primary teacher of all things relating to life and love, and the greatest joy of my existence.  As evidenced by the photos, Orion has already demonstrated that even as an infant, he has a clear proclivity for books.  

I can be contacted by email at:

or by mail or telephone at:


ASCEND, 3709 E.12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

(510) 879-3140


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