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 Getting to Know SDCOE: Special Education Coordinator Uses Data to Help Students

Ryan Estrellado profileRyan Estrellado loves data.

Sure, we all love to throw a statistic into our work from time to time, but Estrellado takes it a step further, swimming in data in his free time as well as at work.

Why does he do this?

Estrellado, coordinator with the South County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), says he thinks data can make the world a better place, and not just for students. He volunteers with Data for Democracy, a grassroots effort dedicated to using data to drive better decisions across the globe.

"I want to help in a very specific way," he said, adding that he volunteers for the effort because he believes in the cause and because it gives him an opportunity to sharpen his data science skills by working with others.

In his role with the South County SELPA, Estrellado uses data to help special education teachers and administrators reach their professional goals and effectively serve students.

It's not all about data for Estrellado, though. When he's not crunching numbers, he loves spending time with his wife and two children and going on long bike rides.

Estrellado didn't always know he wanted to work in education. After graduating from college with a degree in sociology, he began working as a case manager with the county's Welfare to Work program.

"That was my first taste of public service," he said.

While helping families through that program, he realized that he enjoyed the counseling aspects of the work, and he decided to go back to college for a degree in school psychology.

Estrellado started his career in education as a school psychologist in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. In that role, he says he wished he had more time to use data to better understand the job and how to best serve students. Now, he's able to do that work to support other educators and school psychologists who may be in much the same position he was then.

After working as a school psychologist for seven years, he moved into a coordinator position at the Chula Vista district office. This district-level position allowed him to dive deeper into data while continuing to support students.

"I felt really at home at that level," he said. "I enjoyed looking at the whole system to support students."

In 2012, he came to SDCOE in the position he still holds with the South County SELPA. In that role, he gets to support an even wider variety of educators in six school districts by organizing staff development opportunities, supervising special programs, and supporting committees working on special projects.

"I see myself as a support person," he said. "I really like supporting the adults who work directly with kids."