Educator of the week

Leo Magallon 
STEM Academy of Boyle Heights

Los Angeles Unified School District

Mr. Leo Magallon was born and raised in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. A child of a single parent household, Leo was raised by his father who always stressed the importance of hard work and helping those in need. His father, an immigrant from Mexico was only able to complete grade school, however, he always encouraged Leo to complete his studies and strive to achieve all of his goals.

Leo attended Roosevelt high school, and upon graduation he decided to attend Occidental College on a full academic scholarship, where he received his bachelor's degree in physics with a minor in education. "I chose Occidental over other well-known universities because of its small size, its commitment to community engagement, and its rigorous academic program," he reflects. While in college, he was an active member of several student-run organizations and helped organize a variety of educational and cultural campus events. Originally, Leo had entered college with the goal of becoming an engineer, and worked as an intern with a private engineering firm for five years. He remembers how much he enjoyed the challenges that the workplace provided, but felt a void that was only filled once he ventured into the educational field. "A professor changed my outlook and helped me find my passion. It was a transformative process in which I realized that I can use the skills that I developed through earning my degrees in math and physics to help uplift and change my inner-city neighborhood."

Leo continued his studies and ultimately earned a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in mathematics along with a single-subject teaching credentials in math and physics. In 2010, he obtained a teaching position at his alma mater, Roosevelt High School, where he taught for four years. He and five other teachers decided to work together to bring back a vital component that they believed was crucial for the students of their beloved community. Together, they founded the STEM Academy of Boyle Heights, which is a public pilot high school operated through the Los Angeles Unified School District. "We make it a priority at our school to assure that our students receive STEM focused curriculum during the school day through partnerships with Project Lead the Way, the MESA program, and participation in a variety of engineering competitions throughout the city," he explains.

Now in his fifth year of teaching, Leo continues to push and work towards providing his students the best educational experience. Coming from the same neighborhood as his students, he understands that many students are unable to explore life beyond their local community and interact with individuals with different cultural backgrounds. Despite those challenges, he makes it his personal goal to encourage and motivate his students to challenge themselves and break away from the social norm. Leo shares,"We encourage our students to participate and compete in city-wide engineering competitions for two reasons … It enables them to put what they have learned into action and it exposes them to the world beyond Boyle Heights. He continues, “The students in Boyle Heights are talented and are able to be competitive in these fields. That is why I am looking forward to expand our school and letting the neighborhood know about the opportunities that are available to them in their own backyard."

During his spare time, Leo enjoys doing a little cooking, running, and hiking in the great outdoors.

View More Educators of the Week