Elementary School Team
Gina Aguilar - Director of Academic Excellence
A Southern California native, Gina Aguilar was blessed to learn from amazing teachers and knew at the age of 8 that education was her vocation. After graduating from La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, Gina attended the University of Notre and received a BA in History and Economics. She earned her MA and multiple subject teaching credential as a member of the 2nd cohort of LMU’s PLACE Corp. Gina later returned to LMU to receive her MA in Catholic School Administration.
Gina served for 14 years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Downey. She began as the 4th through 8th grade Math teacher. She later transitioned to 8th grade homeroom where she enjoyed teaching ELA, religion, science, math, and music. Gina was privileged to serve as Vice Principal before transitioning to Principal. During her time at OLPH as a teacher and administrator, Gina worked to build and foster a professional learning community. Gina joined the Department of Catholic Schools in July 2016 as the Associate Director of Academic Excellence and transitioned to Director in July 2018.
Gina believes that Catholic education is a vocation and, as such, requires the support of community. She has been blessed to experience the power of collaboration and witness the positive impact on teacher and student learning. Gina never planned to leave the elementary classroom, but she trusts in the path that God has called her to journey and is finding great joy in working with dedicated teachers and principals in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Rachel Rufus Associate Director of Academic Excellence
Rachel attended St. Robert Bellarmine elementary school and Bellarmine-Jefferson High School in Burbank. She received her bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies with a minor in Math, master’s degree in Education Leadership and Curriculum, and is currently working on her doctoral degree in K-12 Organizational Leadership at Grand Canyon University.
Rachel’s career in education began as an Academic Decathlon coach where she developed a love for teaching. She had the opportunity to work in many capacities at St. Robert Bellarmine, her alma mater, as Vice Principal, 8th grade teacher, and ELA and Math Curriculum Coordinator for over nine years. She then had the opportunity to serve at Incarnation Parish School in Glendale as the Director of Instruction and Vice Principal for three years where she supported the adult learners through data meetings. In addition, Rachel enjoyed serving as chair on several WASC/WCEA visiting teams throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Her mission as a Catholic educator is to help students and teachers achieve academic growth, and be better faith-filled human beings by providing them the right set of values for life’s journey. Through all her experiences, she truly believes in being a servant-leader where she can empower others while working towards the common goal: improving student learning. She joined the Department of Catholic Schools in 2017 as an Academic Excellence Specialist. In 2018, she transitioned to Associate Director of Academic Excellence. Rachel enjoys working with Excellence because it is her core belief that in order for students to grow and thrive, the adult learners need to be supported so that they can grow and thrive, as well.
Academic Excellence Specialists:
Danielle Paulino is a proud product of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She attended Incarnation Parish School in Glendale from kindergarten through eighth grade and is a proud graduate of Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. She earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona and was recognized as a Promising Student-Teacher through the Rodel Foundation of Arizona. She also received her Master’s of Science in Psychology from Grand Canyon University.
Danielle began her career with Tucson Unified School District in 2011 teaching at Hudlow Elementary School. There she was given the opportunity to serve on the English Language Arts Assessment Analysis District Review Team as well as the English Language Arts and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math District Curriculum Committee. In 2014, Danielle returned to California to be with her family and taught at Holy Family Elementary School and Incarnation Parish School.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has truly molded Danielle into the individual she is today, and she feels a great calling to give back to the community that continues to be an active and important part of her life. She is driven by her dedication to quality education, her passion for supporting and empowering others, and her desire for continuous growth and learning. Danielle is honored to join the Onward 4 Excellence team united together in mission to improve student learning in our Catholic schools.
Elizabeth was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in California. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and a multiple subject teaching credential at Mount St. Mary’s University. She continued her graduate studies at Concordia University Irvine and received a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Elizabeth began her career in education as she completed her student teaching in Los Angeles Unified School District, then moved into a public charter school to teach science, years later she transitioned to private Catholic schools. Elizabeth is grateful to have taught second grade for five years and been part of Professional Learning Communities which allowed her to collaborate with other teachers. Differentiating in the classroom allowed her to be responsive to students’ needs and take the responsibility of adjusting the pace of curriculum, if needed be, so that learning in the classroom was effective and relevant. Elizabeth pioneered reading curriculum maps and implemented common core instructional practices while meeting students’ needs. In addition, Elizabeth also supported the faith formation-sacramental preparation and was an integral part in merging the school’s parents with the parish community to support one another. She assisted the parish religious education department with parent focus meetings as students prepared for First Reconciliation and First Communion.
Elizabeth is confident that the ongoing collaboration with teachers about high academic achievement will continue to contribute to professional growth. This will support students to be scholarly leaders in today’s world and foster Christian service among colleagues and students to carry out our God given mission. Elizabeth is committed to hard work and is excited to be given the opportunity to be part of the Onward 4 Excellence Team. She believes that with God’s guidance and discernment through the Holy Spirit all is possible. Elizabeth looks forward to this new adventure.
Sonia Jacobo was born in Long Beach and raised in Paramount, CA. Sonia attended Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic elementary school in Paramount, and Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. She received her bachelor’s degree in Family & Consumer Sciences at California State University, Northridge and her master’s degree in Elementary Education at Loyola Marymount University.
Sonia began her career within education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary school in Downey in 2011. When first starting at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, she was given the opportunity to begin and continue to develop their Transitional Kindergarten program at the school. In the 2014-2015 school year, O.L.P.H. implemented collaborative team teaching within the classroom which provided her the opportunity to teach both TK and Kindergarten students. While at O.L.P.H., Sonia also served as a co-athletic director and a member on the administrative leadership team.
Sonia truly believes our future in education is immensely impacted on our youngest students’ experiences and their perception of school and learning environment. She is grateful to have the opportunity to work with God’s youngest learners, and in return have them teach her how to challenge and better herself as an educator and a person. In 2017, Sonia was humbled to have had the opportunity to join the Onward 4 Excellence Team as an Academic Excellence Specialist for the Department of Catholic Schools. She truly enjoys and embraces the calling to support adult learning with both principals and teachers, and as a result, continue to impact student learning in the classroom.
Daniel Dunne - Academic Data Specialist
Daniel was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, but now calls Los Angeles home. After completing a degree in Communications and Mathematics at the University of San Diego, Daniel moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to start his career teaching. While teaching, he earned his MA in secondary education with a focus in mathematics through PLACE Corps at Loyola Marymount University. He has also earned various credentials using programming and coding for data analysis.
Daniel’s career in education started as a math teacher at Cathedral High School. He had the opportunity to teach a variety of different ages and levels of math while utilizing tech tools and adaptive software in the classroom. In 2017 Daniel started a new career at LMU with the iDEAL Institute. There, he helped write and deliver professional development in Blended Learning and Tech-Integration for TK-8 teachers across the state of California. After studying coding and data analysis, Daniel started with the Onward 4 Excellence team as an Academic Data Specialist.
Daniel has a passion for using technology to redefine education with analysis of big data and classroom use of adaptive software. As the Academic Data Specialist for the Onward 4 Excellence team, Daniel strives to deliver the best information to facilitate growth in the Catholic Schools of Los Angeles. He is grateful for the opportunity to work in a socially just field with fellow educators.