BY JOCELYN Y. STEWART
On the desk of Marquita Grenot-Scheyer sits an old black-and-white photo of the elementary students she tutored in the 1970s.
Back then, Grenot-Scheyer was a freshman at Cal State LA, trying very hard to reach students with disabilities: those with autism, severe mental retardation, and behavioral challenges. In the end, the students taught Grenot-Scheyer a lesson that became a central tenet of her career, one that a beloved professor later helped hone.
Students tutored by Marquita Grenot-Scheyer in the 1970s.
(Photo courtesy of Marquita Grenot-Scheyer)
“They taught me what it means to be a teacher, i.e., believing every child can learn,” says Grenot-Scheyer. “It’s my responsibility to ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to learn.”
Today Grenot-Scheyer holds a Ph.D. in special education and is an author and leader in the field. In 2016, she was appointed assistant vice chancellor for Teacher Education and Public School Programs for the California State University Office of the Chancellor.
Fueled by gratitude and a desire to help others succeed as she has, Grenot-Scheyer and her husband, Kraig, have created the new Dr. Mary A. Falvey Leadership Development Fund. The gift honors Falvey, who is a professor emerita of special education at the University, a former dean of the Charter College of Education, and a national authority on inclusive education for students with and without disabilities.
Falvey and the college played a key role in Grenot-Scheyer’s career. It was not a career she envisioned for herself as a child growing up.
In high school Grenot-Scheyer was seen as an average student. Guidance counselors didn’t view her as university material, so they never placed her in college preparatory classes.
“I wasn’t the smartest kid in the class,” Grenot-Scheyer recalls. “But I persist. I don’t give up.”
After high school, Grenot-Scheyer followed an older sister’s footsteps and enrolled at Cal State LA; here her life was transformed. First, she discovered her passion for teaching children with disabilities while tutoring as part of her participation in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) on campus. Then Grenot-Scheyer discovered Falvey.
Early on, Falvey saw Grenot-Scheyer’s potential.
“[Dr. Grenot-Scheyer] was extraordinarily passionate about meeting the needs of students with disabilities, especially the kids with multiple disabilities,” Falvey recalls.
Falvey sparked Grenot-Scheyer’s interest in university teaching, encouraged her to pursue a Ph.D., and became her mentor and life-long friend. The lesson Grenot-Scheyer learned from those early students blossomed and developed under Falvey’s tutelage.
“She is a phenomenal teacher/scholar,” says Grenot-Scheyer. “She very much inspired me.”
Grenot-Scheyer and her husband created the Dr. Mary A. Falvey Leadership Development Fund through a bequest to Cal State LA. The new fund will support student projects, programs, supplies, and eventually scholarships.
“I was overwhelmed and tremendously honored and thrilled for the Charter College of Education,” Falvey says.
The gift will help the college offer other students the same opportunities Grenot-Scheyer received, says Cheryl Ney, dean of the Charter College of Education.
“Since many of the students in the Charter College of Education are working adults with families, additional support for their education allows them to ‘aim high’ and achieve their leadership potential in their chosen profession within education,” Ney says.
The Charter College of Education has prepared generations of education professionals since the early years of L.A. State College, now Cal State LA, who have returned to their local communities. Cal State LA alumni are making an impact on the lives of children and youth and contributing to the development of their communities, says Ney.
“Alumni, exemplified by Dr. Grenot-Scheyer, ensure that this proud and important tradition will continue long into the future,” she says. “We in the college are grateful for the lasting impact of our alumni.”
Grenot-Scheyer received her B.A., M.A., teaching and administrative credentials and a Ph.D. (in a joint doctoral program with UCLA) at Cal State LA. For many years, she served as dean of the College of Education at Cal State Long Beach. Her husband is a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
With this gift Grenot-Scheyer pays forward the support she received from Falvey and others. Grenot-Scheyer is still grateful to her first students for the lesson they taught her and to Cal State LA’s Charter College of Education, where she learned how to reach them.
She and her husband are strong supporters of the CSU because they’ve witnessed and experienced its impact.
“We received a great education from this system,” Grenot-Scheyer says. “The CSU really does change lives.”