Lizbeth Barajas

Lizbeth Barajas

Age: 38

Bakersfield City School District coordinator for multitier systems of support

Lizbeth Barajas firmly believes that resiliency can be learned.

That’s how she managed to earn her bachelor’s degree, teaching credential and master’s despite becoming pregnant in high school, resisting the urge to work and provide for her child after graduating. She’s now working on her fourth master’s degree and administrative credentials while overseeing a multitier support system for students in the Bakersfield City School District.

But Lizbeth knows she wouldn’t be where she is today if it wasn’t for the help and guidance of caring adults, starting with her high school counselor who told her she could go to college.

“I really just think relationships are a huge piece that helped get me where I am,” she said. “Relationships with people at my school, relationships with the community.”

Lizbeth understands that not every student will go to college, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful and be good humans. Some research indicates that emotional intelligence is a stronger predictor of success rather than IQ and Lizbeth taught social emotional learning to her students as a fifth-grade teacher.

But she was just one teacher, one voice.

So when a coordinator position opened up for multitier systems of support seven years ago, she jumped on the opportunity. Through her efforts, BCSD now offers social and emotional learning programs across its 43 school sites, in addition to providing different levels of support for its 30,000 students.

“I never wanted to do anything other than be a teacher,” she said. “But I realized there was a need for the students we were servicing. We had a lot of students that were homeless or in foster care and we weren’t addressing those needs. They need mentoring, they need guidance, they need somebody to talk to. They need adults that care for them.”

And they have that in Lizbeth, who is living proof that resilience can be taught and learned.

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