Remembering Dr. Gwen Angelica Agustin-Nodora

Author: Arlene Daus-Magbual & Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales
Dr. Gwen Agustin-Nodora
Photo Credit:

Dear SF State Community,

It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that we announce that Dr. Gwen Angelica Agustin-Nodora passed away on Monday, September 6, 2021. She was our colleague, our teacher, our student, our mentor and friend to so many of us at SF State. Gwen was funny, fierce, and a fighter for everything she believed in, especially when it came to her family, friends, and community. 

Prior to her most recent positions as the Director of Special Education and Student Support Services at Caliber School of Performing Arts and as the ASPIRE Educational Psychologist in Counseling and Psychological Services at SF State, Dr. Gwen Agustin worked in public education for two decades beginning with her time in PEP.  She has a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Child Adolescent Development. She holds a M.S. in Psychology and PPS credentials in school psychology and school counseling. Gwen also has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership as well as a clear administrative credential.  She was adamant about pursuing education and she pursued each level at San Francisco State University.  Because she graduated three times from SF State, Gwen would proudly tell her students that she was a “triple crown” gator.  And like many gators, she was an activist and an advocate for communities that she was a part of and communities that were underrepresented.  With each of her degrees and in each of her many jobs, Gwen studied and represented some of the most vulnerable and marginalized students.

While Gwen was completing her undergraduate degree, she started her career in education as a preschool teacher and was an active leader in Project Based Learning and created a culturally responsive curriculum that engaged early student learning. Simultaneously, she served the Filipina/x/o community by teaching in Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP). In PEP, she not only taught but she also became one of the first coordinators. From the beginning of her time in PEP, Gwen advocated for providing out of class support services for the students. She was the first Malong/wellness coordinator which became the impetus of centering wellness as part of PEP’s Ethnic Studies curriculum. 

Gwen continued her education and received her M.S. degree and went on to work as a school psychologist in special education at a large comprehensive high school. There she was involved in mental health programs and services, led student centered teams, and provided consultative support. She then transitioned to the Bay Area and initially worked for a charter school system where she began her career in administration. She led special education programs from elementary to high school. While Gwen worked at a Bay Area public school as a program supervisor in special education and focused on middle school programs, she continued to teach psychology courses at Diablo Valley College as well as behavior intervention and management courses through Teach For America.  Gwen’s educational philosophy is based on an inclusive and social justice framework.

Dr. Gwen Agustin received her doctorate in Education in 2011.  Her dissertation was titled, “Response to Intervention: Moving towards equity and social justice in special education.” The purpose of her study was to explore if the Response to Intervention (RTI) process had potential to impact equity issues within special education at the elementary school level. She studied the overrepresentation of Black and Brown children in special education and the lack of community responsive services.  She conducted an extended case study of kindergarten through fifth grade students at a Bay Area school in California. Through all her observations, interviews, and reviewing public documents, Gwen used a Critical Disability Studies framework to understand the potential that Response to Intervention could have on students of color. Data further supported that students participating in RTI reading interventions were more integrated and less stigmatized. Dr. Agustin recommended that by applying more cultural considerations and pedagogy and inclusive practices, RTI had the potential to serve students of color better.  Gwen not only studied this, she lived it. In each position that she held, she consistently had the most vulnerable students in mind.  Gwen was passionate about student equity and believed that all children can achieve given the right support and services. She believed in inclusive practices and having all students learn in the same classroom environment. She promoted civic responsibility, high expectations, and developing a community of learners.

Continuing her passion to support students at all levels, Gwen began her journey in higher education as the Asian American & Pacific Islander Retention and Education (ASPIRE) Educational Psychologist at the Counseling and Psychological Services department at SF State. Gwen worked in partnership with AA & PI Student Services and the Asian American Studies department to provide wrap around services for students. Gwen offered critical disability training for faculty and provided free assessment, disability testing, and educational support services for students. Her position was the first and only of its kind in the CSU system and Gwen was instrumental in setting the blueprint for serving AA & PI students with diverse learning abilities. As an immigrant from the Philippines herself, she was excited to work with her Asian American & Pacific Islander community and come full circle at her Alma Mater. Her purpose was grounded through her personal experience with close friends and family who struggled in school or didn’t finish college, which has created her deep commitment to helping college students graduate and become positive contributors to their community and workforce. 

Along with being such an amazing leader and supporter in our communities, Gwen was such a loving and dedicated family member and friend.  She is survived by her mother and father, and her sister Grace and her husband Al, her sister Glenda, and her brother, Gerald and his wife Janet, and her brother Gerren.  Her legacy will continue to live through her nieces and nephews, Kailea, Andrew, Kyreece, Anthony, Kamea, Khalil, and her grandniece and grandnephew, Ka’maya and Isaiah. Coming from a large family and having so many friends who loved to party, vacation, and enjoy life with each other, Gwen was always surrounded by a large posse of people.  Gwen’s life partner for over a decade who she’s known for most of her life, Eric Nodora is an artist who draws, paints, and creates beautiful murals. These two were a match made in heaven, with Gwen often being Eric’s muse, inspiration, and biggest fan. They were perfect for each other. They traveled the world together and supported each other’s dreams and passions and were there for each other through it all.  Gwen will be sadly missed by her family, her husband, her friends, and her colleagues.

We will be sharing more details about ways to celebrate her life in the coming days. In lieu of flowers or gifts, Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP) and her loving family created a Dr. Gwen Angelica Agustin-Nodora scholarship fund to contribute to. Gwen contributed so much to the field of education and to the growth of young scholars and activists all over the Bay area and beyond. This scholarship will go towards students who will continue her legacy.

Love,
Arlene Daus-Magbual, Grace Yoo, Raju Desai, and Levalasi Loi-On

 

WE ARE...

Poem Excerpt by Dr. Gwen Agustin

 

We are...OUR ANCESTORS

From the provinces of Laguna to mountains of Baguio,

I represent my ancestors who lived humbly in a life of struggle.

From my Lola Tuhod to my Lola to my mama,

I represent the independent women in my family who nurtured their children and sacrificed for their families.

From my bothers to my sisters, 

I represent the strength, endurance, and love that you all have given me.

And to my cousins,

The passion, eagerness, and JOY each time we celebrate.

 

We are...REVOLUTIONARIES

From the injustices of our students of color, 

To the inequities that our students with varying abilities receive,

We must scream through education, communication,

And love for their rights and freedom

Pakinggan niyo kami

Hindi kami natatakot.

 

We are...OUR COMMUNITIES

My community bridges from the art of culture to the art of education.

My foundation was created in my hometown community of South Sacramento.

I was raised with the elements of hip-hop and continue to be inspired

By those in my life whose imagination soars.

From DNK, to Capitol Roots, to QueenDom, to Cerebrus Playground.

Thank you for defending the art of culture.

My foundation transpired further here in my Bay Area home.

To my PEP community who loves, learns, and teaches.

Thank you for defining the art of education.

 

We are...HOPE

I see HOPE in my nieces, nephews, and my grand ones too.

Kailea, Andrew, Kyreece, Anthony, Kamea, Khalil, Ka’maya, and Isaiah. 

You are our future leaders.

Through each decision you make,

You can inspire, transform, and revolutionize.

And at times that I may feel hopeless,

Thank you Eric for always reminding me of how and why to be Hopeful.

 

This poem was recited at the Filipina/x/o Graduation at SF State in May 2011.  Gwen wrote this with Arlene Daus-Magbual, Newin Orante, and Alexis Montevirgen.  We added some names of her nieces, nephews, and grandchildren who were born after 2011.

group of students and faculty smiling
aanapisi gathering