University's Education Students Hear From Public School Administrators

Texas A&M International University students enrolled in an educational administration course recently learned about the challenges of school administration from A&M International alumni who are now first-year administrators with Laredo and United Independent School Districts.

A&M International alumni Elouisa Diaz, Vice Principal of Lamar Middle School, and Elvira Gaona, Vice Principal of United South High School, were guest speakers for a graduate-level Practicum in School Administration course taught by Dr. David Herrington, Assistant Professor of Educational Administration.

Diaz received her certification in educational administration at A&M International and Gaona completed coursework in educational administration at the University.

Dr. Herrington asked both to discuss the daily challenges they face in their new roles as educational leaders. Because both Diaz and Gaona are first-year administrators, he felt they could offer his students a unique viewpoint.

"This is a critical time in their professional development, and it is at this time of personal and professional growth that they have a tremendous amount of insight to offer aspiring administrators who will be following in their footsteps," he explained.

Diaz is in charge of all aspects of the seventh grade program at Lamar Middle School and also supervises the school's counseling department, office staff, and curriculum development. She told the A&M students that her 12 years of experience as a counselor at LISD prepared her for her new role as a school administrator.

"Dealing with students and parents is something that I have done for many years and I find that in my new role, I face many of the same issues I faced as a counselor, but from a different perspective," she stated.

Diaz recalled that the decision to leave the security of her counseling job for the uncharted waters of an administrative position was one which required much soul-searching.

"In making the decision to become an administrator, I asked myself 'Why would I want to go from a position as counselor where most people love you to a position as administrator where that is not necessarily the case?' The answer for me is that there are days when I feel that I do achieve my goals and that makes it worthwhile," she explained.

She attributed her successful transition into an administrative role at Lamar Middle School to the leadership style of her principal, Blas Martinez.

"To be successful as a vice principal it is critical to have a principal who delegates and who provides the leeway, guidance, and support needed to get the job done," she noted.

Gaona, Vice Principal at United South High School, also praised her principal, Dalia Treviño, as an excellent role model for aspiring administrators.

"She creates a school climate that empowers and makes everyone part of the team," she said.

Gaona, who served as counselor at Clark Middle School before becoming Vice Principal at United South High School, is in charge of her school's curriculum and counseling programs.

She said that the ability to manage time and "be flexible enough to fill many roles throughout the school day" is crucial to succeeding as a new school administrator. She added that as a female professional, balancing work and family responsibilities is a challenge.

Gaona advised students to apply for positions within their respective school districts whenever positions come available.

"The experience of interviewing with site-based committees, principals, central office administrators and superintendents is invaluable," she noted.

Both administrators agreed that the rewards of serving as an administrator come from the personal satisfaction of having done things well on a particular day.

"Not every day," said Gaona, "do things go smoothly. There are many unexpected interruptions. On some days it is difficult to remain focused on specific projects because so many other issues come up in rapid succession that must be addressed right then."

In addition to learning from guest lectures, Dr. Herrington's students gain firsthand knowledge of school administration through an intern practicum that is part of the Practicum in School Administration course. Student interns complete a 45 semester-hour administrative practicum under the joint supervision of Dr. Herrington and a LISD or UISD principal. According to Dr. Herrington, the interning experience greatly enhances classroom learning..

"Educational administration students are exposed to a wide range of issues in administrative philosophy and theory, but until they are able to interact with practitioners, their conceptions of leadership and administrative concerns remain very limited," he explained.

Principals who served as mentors to administrative interns during the Fall semester included Mary Molina, of United High School; Cecilia Moreno, Martin High School; Dalia Treviño, United South High School; Alicia Valdez, Salvador Garcia Middle School; and Nora Woods, Amparo Gutierrez Elementary School.

For more information on A&M International's Educational Administration courses, please contact Herrington at 326-2523 or the University's College of Education at 326-2420. University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday.

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