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Lawrence Gotanco

Lawrence Gotanco

Founder and Executive Director

Lawrence, or "Wes" as many Filipino family and friends call him, is an attorney licensed to practice law in California.  He practiced discrimination law and poverty law in California for three years before discovering his true calling – education. 

Lawrence spent seven years as a teacher at Lee Mathson Middle School – the lowest performing middle school in Santa Clara County, California – with the poorest of the poor in the affluent Silicon Valley.  The school was situated in the middle of a Latino gang turf war and was overridden with drugs, violence, and poor educational focus.  In working with a group of talented and driven educators, he was able to help the school move from worst to first in the district within a three-year-period.  He helped restore peace and a sense of purpose to a place that many called “dangerous” and “hopeless.” (see the article from the California Teacher Association's Educator magazine describing the achievements of these educational leaders).


After seven years as a teacher, Lawrence served in San Francisco Unified School District as an Assistant Principal at Cesar Chavez Elementary School and as principal at Bessie Carmichael School/Filipino Education Center.  He continued to work with educators in transforming education for the highest-need children, particularly impoverished Latino English language learners and African-Americans.  He then went on to serve as principal at Donald Lum Elementary School in the Alameda Unified School District and as Vice Principal at Jefferson Union High School District's Westmoor High School, where his three children attended. He is now an Early Learning Principal in the Oakland Unified School District, where he is the director of three preschools in West Oakland.

The common thread between Lawrence’s occupations as an attorney and as an educator has been his passion for helping those who do not have a voice and who have been forgotten or written off.  In 2009, he worked heavily with Gawad Kalinga not only to build homes and communities for the poorest of the poor in the Philippines, but also to build peace between the warring Christians and Muslims in the Mindanao region. 

In creating the ASELIS Learning Foundation, he hopes to share his experience as an attorney, an educator, and a GK volunteer to provide all children with a strong educational foundation, all communities with the knowledge and skills to cherish and protect the education of their children, and all people the chance to lead fulfilling lives.  He hopes to realize his dream of a world without poverty, a world of peace.

Denise Giacomini

Board President

Denise was classroom teacher in Alum Rock Unified School District in San Jose, California, for over thirty years.  She served the poorest children in the middle school years, particularly Latino English learners.  She then served as a central office administrator at Alum Rock and then as a vice principal and principal at Lee Mathson Middle School.  She continued on her calling to education as the Coordinator for English Learner Support at the San Mateo County Office of Education and currently as Educational Consultant with the Santa Clara County Office of Education.  She has served as ASELIS' Board President since 2009.

Elvie Teodoro

Board Treasurer

Elvie Teodoro is an entrepreneur in San Jose, California.  Her portfolio includes real estate investments in California and in the Philippines.  She owns and operates several facilitated living homes in California, and she is a strong supporter of performing arts opportunities for children.  She founded the Evergreen School of Music and Arts, or ESOMA, in San Jose.  She also founded and serves as Executive Director of the NorCal Academy of Performing Arts, or NAPA. Most recently in 2019, the Silicon Valley Business Journal honored her with the Women of Influence Award, which recognizes the top 100 most influential women in the Silicon Valley.  We are honored and blessed with the wisdom and expertise she has contributed to our board since 2009.

Eduardo Magana

Board Secretary

​In his lifetime, Eduardo has faced many of the same challenges as the children ASELIS serves.  He grew up facing the hardships that come with living in conditions of poverty and surrounded by hopelessness.  He grew up in a very poor neighborhood in East San Jose, California, right in the middle of the Latino gang territory.  Yet through determination, focus, and the knowledge that he could not and must not do it alone, he transcended his adversity, achieving academic and personal excellence.  He is now on the path to fulfilling his dream -- to honor those he loves by using his time, his talent, and his treasure to help people who are now walking in shoes he once filled.

Graduating in 2009 from Bellarmine College Preparatory Academy in San Jose, CA, Eduardo attended the University of California - Santa Barbara. He earned his bachelor's degree in Government Studies in 2013.  In 2014, Eduardo joined Teach for America and became a high school teacher at ACE Charter School, a school serving the poorest Latinos in the very neighborhood where he grew up.  In 2017, he advanced to the position of Dean and Vice Principal at ACE.  In May 2023, he graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan School of Law. He is now an Associate at Davis Polk & Wardell LLP in Menlo Park. CA

Eduardo has an understanding of Latino and Latin-American culture, as well as impoverished conditions both in the urban United States as well as in Latin America. He is bilingual in English and Spanish.  He will play an integral role in the planning of expansion of our projects into Mexico and Central America.


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