EMU’s 2022 Outstanding Young Alum: Camila Pandolfi ’12

EMU’s 2022 alumni awards will be presented at the Oct. 7-9 Homecoming and Family Weekend celebration.

Recipients include Amy Rosenberger ’86 and Dr. Joseph Gascho ’68.

When Camila Pandolfi arrived in the U.S. from Uruguay as a sixth-grader, she was placed in a sheltered English Learner (EL) classroom. She was confused as to why she was in the same class as students who had lived in the U.S. for years, and frustrated when asked to complete simple multiplication problems, something she had done in Uruguay in third grade.

Now, as a educator in the same district, Pandolfi understands that, in 2001, Harrisonburg was just not prepared to meet the needs of its EL students—the district has been constantly evolving and adapting to better serve their population.

In 2014, she had the opportunity to launch a dual language program at Waterman Elementary School with a cohort of 42 Kindergarten students. “Teaching in this program gave me the opportunity to bridge my passion for my own language and culture to language learning and teaching while helping ELs succeed,” Pandolfi said.

A 2012 graduate, Pandolfi was recently promoted to coordinator of dual language programs, working from the central office. She was the first teacher to hold the role of K-8 Dual Language Instructional Coach for Harrisonburg City Public Schools. Previously, she was the fifth grade Spanish teacher in the dual language program at Waterman Elementary School. She was a member of the 2021 HCPS Strategic Planning Committee while a Waterman teacher and was Waterman’s teacher representative to the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee.

Jeremy Aldrich, director of teaching and learning at Harrisonburg City Public Schools, has been Pandolfi’s colleague for the past decade. “Her commitment to personal growth and to building strong systems of support for teachers, students, and families has touched the lives of hundreds of people,” he said. “Whether it is leading teacher book studies, coaching and mentoring new teachers, developing curriculum, or advocating for the needs of our students and community, Camila offers practical and forward-thinking solutions, always delivered with humor and positive energy.” 

Pandolfi is committed to  building strong systems of support for teachers, students, and families. She remains motivated by her experiences growing up in the EL classroom. For her, it is about centering the student in a community of learners: “making an impact on student learning, engaging them in new experiences, seeing them learn and acquire a new language, connecting with our Spanish heritage speakers, and contributing to their success not only in the classroom, but beyond.”

Published 8/29/22.