Kat Valenzuela

SRJC Mathematics Instructor, Petaluma campus

"At SRJC I found my passion for mathematics and I was able to achieve my educational goals."

Smiling woman in black blouse against white backdrop

Katherine Valenzuela fell in love with mathematics at SRJC. Years later, she is teaching in the same department as the instructors who ignited her passion for calculus and “all things math.”

Born and raised in Sonoma, Kat studied at Napa New Technology High School, a charter school created for students to learn skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy. Her first economics teacher got her interested in government and, as a teenager, she dreamed of being the first woman chairperson of the Federal Reserve.

Coming to Santa Rosa Junior College after high school, she continued on an economics path, but her first intermediate algebra class opened the door to a whole new world of wonders. Pre-calculus, calculus, differential equations, algebra—topics that would give a headache to most students—posed complicated and wonderful problems to solve and she loved the challenge. She would save her math homework for last, savoring the experience of finding solutions to every exercise. Economics and other science topics were delightful to study “backward and forward,” as she said, and the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program at SRJC was a natural fit for her. Kat speaks of her SRJC math instructors and mentors with a heart full of joy: “Every professor I had challenged me in a way that helped me grow into a better person and a better student.” Her list of thanks begins with Dan Munton and Kirby Bunas, her very first instructors, and extends to many members of the Mathematics Department who contributed to and enriched her knowledge and grasp on the subject.

After obtaining her Associate’s Degree in mathematics and economics, Kat transferred to UC Davis, then to California State University, Sacramento for her bachelor’s degree. She followed that up with a master’s degree in mathematics, with emphasis in education, from Washington State University. She worked as a teaching assistant and instructor throughout her entire education experience, and the idea of someday coming back to SRJC to teach stayed with her. She kept in touch with her JC math instructors and mentors, seeking advice and asking if there were any opportunities to come back to the JC. While teaching part-time at Sonoma State University, Napa Valley College, Solano Community College, and Glendale Community College, she applied for full-time faculty openings at SRJC. On her third application, she was hired as a mathematics instructor at SRJC Petaluma, beginning in December 2014. Now she puts her heart and soul into helping her fellow Bear Cubs conquer math. She feels at home here, and she is thriving in the department that once was her ideal.

Katherine Valenzuela feels strongly that “SRJC is part of my community. I want to help my community prosper, grow, and to give back to the junior college and to the students what I received here: at SRJC I found my passion for mathematics and I was able to achieve my educational goals.”

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