College of Education Associate Dean David Fuentes Receives 2024 Mildred García Founders Award from American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education

Dr. David A. Fuentes, associate dean and professor of teacher education in the College of Education at William Paterson University in Wayne, has been named the recipient of the 2024 Mildred García Founder’s Award, presented by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education.

The award, named after Dr. Mildred García, the former president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, honors exemplar commitment to advancing access and success of the Latinx population in higher education.

Fuentes investigates educator experiences, including the experiences of educators of color in K-12 schools and in higher education settings. His current research focuses on high-needs school communities and understanding issues of equity as they relate to the function, purpose, and outcomes of public education.

“Dr. Fuentes’ work is squarely rooted in his commitment to advancing access and success of the Latinx population at William Paterson and not only for the current generation of college students, but for future students from kindergarten through college and beyond, by focusing on recruiting, retaining, and promoting Latinx teachers who will educate future generations,” says William Paterson University President Richard J. Helldobler. “During his decade of work at our institution, he has made an indelible imprint on our community, and we are thrilled that he has been honored with this award.”

Fuentes was named associate dean of William Paterson’s College of Education in 2022. He joined the University faculty in 2012. Prior to joining the University, Fuentes served as an English language learner teacher in elementary and high schools in Massachusetts, an English language learner writing instructor at the University of Puerto Rico, and a graduate teaching assistant at Pennsylvania State University.

During his tenure at William Paterson, Fuentes has spearheaded numerous initiatives. He is project director for a four-year, $1.6 million U.S. Department of Education Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence grant, which is focused on making New Jersey’s teacher workforce more diverse. Through the grant, William Paterson will recruit students from underrepresented populations as teacher candidates, providing intensive and individualized academic support, as well as flexible and integrated pathways to professional certification and licensure, clinical experiences coupled with paid employment through substitute teaching or paraprofessional roles, and guidance from in-district mentors-in-residence in partnership with five high-needs school districts: Bloomfield, Clifton, Haledon/Manchester, Passaic, and Paterson.

He also helped launch the College of Education’s Aspiring Educators Program, which aims to diversify the state’s teaching workforce through a partnership with high school students from underrepresented backgrounds—rising juniors and seniors who are interested in teaching as a profession.

Fuentes is the author of numerous book chapters, journal articles, and presentations at conferences on topics related to decolonization, student support, and the recruitment, retention and the creation of pathways for Black and Latino male teachers, among others. He also has served as co-director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, a faculty development program designed to support faculty engaged in the teaching and learning process. 

The youngest of seven children and born into a family of educators, Fuentes continues a legacy in pursuit of equity in public education that was began by his parents, Luis and Dora Fuentes. His father was the first Puerto Rican superintendent in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (1968-1973), having implemented some of the first bilingual programs in the U.S. His mother served as a principal in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a community represented by almost 50 percent Latinos.

Fuentes holds a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and a master’s in multicultural and bilingual from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Pennsylvania State University.