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Marciano Gutierrez

Marciano Gutierrez is an instructor and academic advisor at Foothill Middle College
“When I was a kid, I didn't understand the concept of paying it forward. But I knew that I wanted to have the same impact on the lives of others that those [teachers] had on me.”

Marciano Gutierrez,
MA ’06 Stanford Teacher Education Program

Paying it forward in the classroom

Marciano Gutierrez always knew that he wanted to be a teacher.

It started with his second-grade teacher, Nadine Takeuchi, who took him under her wing. It continued with his fifth-grade teacher, Tracy Pennell, who made him and a group of kids from South Fresno feel like they were scholars. Later it was his high school teacher Julie Peterson, who taught him that true leadership required leading with one’s heart.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the concept of paying it forward,” he said. “But I knew that I wanted to have the same impact on the lives of others that those individuals had on me.”

He took the love and lessons from his teachers with him as he pursued his bachelor’s in history at California State University at Fresno, and when he enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) for his master’s degree. Since then he’s gone on to work as a National Teaching Ambassador fellow for the U.S. Department of Education, and spent 13 years as a teacher and advisor in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.

Now, Gutierrez works as an instructor and academic advisor at Foothill Middle College, where he teaches high school students seeking an alternative to the traditional high school environment.

One of three recipients of the GSE’s Alumni Excellence in Education Award this year, Gutierrez will be honored on Oct. 20 at a ceremony during reunion weekend. To register or find out more about the event, email Tiffany Ah Tye at

Here, Gutierrez discussed his career journey, the need to prioritize student wellness in the classroom, and how education changed the course of his life.

What were some of the key moments that led to where you are today?

For me, education has changed the trajectory of my life.

I was blessed in that I personally was able to experience some pretty amazing teachers, which was fortunate because my parents did not know how to navigate the formal education system. My mom had been placed in some significantly restrictive education courses, later dropped out of high school, and was functionally illiterate for the rest of her life. Growing up, I was her ambassador at places like the DMV or the welfare office.

I think that experience has opened my eyes to the students who are not served well by the traditional school setting. As a result I’ve spent my entire teaching career in alternative education. 

What’s a recent milestone you’ve achieved in your goals to better education?

We recently had our graduation at Foothill Middle College, which represents a huge victory for our kids. A number of these students only a few years ago had experiences that would potentially prevent them from walking the stage, and the fact that we get to see them cross that threshold and celebrate their achievements is awesome.

Helping my students experience education in a way that makes them joyful also makes me happy.

If you could see one problem in education solved in the next decade, what would it be?

At Middle College, the very first thing we ask when we see students is, ‘Are you well?’ — as opposed to, ‘Are you getting the grades you want?’ or ‘Are you taking the right classes?’

I think if some of the schools in our areas could make this part of their ethos and culture, there would be many more kids who would be well served by these institutions and would feel safe on our campuses.

In what ways are you looking to grow as a leader?

Something the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) imparted on its teacher candidates was the practice of reflection, which can be the difference between a teacher who has some longevity and someone who gives up and walks away.

I want to continue to grow my reflective practice because that allows me to serve students better, be a more impactful teacher, and, on a personal level, be a better husband and father. It’s something I’m working on every single day.

September 1, 2023
Photo: Melissa Gutierrez | Words: Olivia Peterkin

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