Lillian Castel de Oro- teacher, dancer, and lay circus artist- has spent the last six years honing her craft as an English teacher in classrooms of underrepresented and working-class teenagers. She believes in the power that comes from moving freely between languages, from Spanish, to academic English, to common, everyday slang, and teaches that flexibility to her students. She creates curriculum that appeals to the students’ sense of self and their sense of humor, while emphasizing the importance of written grammar, higher-order thinking, and close readings of texts.

After two years in an unfulfilling school environment, Ms. Castel considered opening a school of her own to create the ideal space for teachers and students, but instead found exactly what she was looking for at APEX: the freedom to be truly creative in the classroom and not focus on standardized tests as measure of success. APEX was the school that not only gave her the above, it took care of the entire child and created a space for people to be themselves. She stays at APEX now because of its unfaltering message that every student can learn, every student can be reached, and every student deserves to be heard.

The child of a Guatemalan immigrant and an American-Jewish father, she very well understands the experience of straddling spaces (Latino and American), which helps her connect to her students. She allows them to value their personal cultures while encouraging them to step into the world of analysis and academia. Ms. Castel grew up in the San Fernando Valley in a crowded home surrounded by many children of different immigrant experiences. After graduating high school in 2002, she received her Bachelor’s in Literature in 2007 from UCSD, and a Master’s in Teaching at the University of Southern California.