Eric's Story

My first encounter with Prof. Yanez was during my first quarter in the California State University, East Bay MSW program. She was the instructor for the Race, Gender, and Inquality and Human Behavior classes that I took during that period. My first impression of her was a lady who was confident, devoted, knowledgeable and very warm towards everyone. She was also eloquent, passionate, and she was a straight-shooter who seemed to know her students and genuinely cared about them. I remember her calling me once and telling me how well I did in my “Theory of me” paper, and that she was impressed with my background. She encouraged me to share my varied experiences and rich cultural background during class discussions.

The Race, Gender and Equality class she taught was a very interactive and interesting class. She had a very creative and professional way of getting everyone to share their views, especially those who rarely spoke in class. Prof. Yanez specifically called their names and asked them to share their thoughts on a particular issue or share what they learned from the class discussion or group exercise. She reminded everyone that the class was a safe space for every student’s view and no one will be judged as we all learn from each other. During controversial or passionate debates she was professional in ensuring that each one of us respected the other’s opinions even when we disagreed. She did this by providing space for students like me to argue back and forth in support or against a particular issue as long as we were addressing the topic being discussed in a healthy and educative manner.  

She also allowed other views that the majority of the class disagreed with, but she used that as an opportunity to educate and explain so that others with opposing views would have a better understanding. During times when she disagreed with a student’s opinion, she did that with respect, she was not judgmental and did not make you feel your opinions did not matter. She always brought the best out of her students and made us feel very comfortable around her.

She made me believe I can play a significant role in changing the world by getting actively involved in raising awareness about injustices through the work that I was being prepared to do. Even when I disagreed with her on certain issues, due to her effective engagement skills, I left thinking intently about what she said. She made others who did not feel comfortable about certain issues being discussed in class, leave feeling well informed. I was always waiting to stay longer in her class, and I believe I was not alone in this. She always checked in individually by asking us to share or describe our feelings before class started, and she made us share one thing we learned from the class.

Her passing continues to be a shock to me because I had just seen her, and I had a brief chat with her in the MI building elevator only a few days before. As I write this story, I can hear her voice playing in my head and see her infectious smile brightening the room. As the African saying goes, “You are not dead when people keep calling your name”.  Professor Isabel Yanez, Da Yei, meaning sleep well or have a restful sleep in Fante (Ghanaian language).