“Everybody wants to hire Filipinos because they work hard, from being a nanny to being a nurse, doctor, or lawyer. But nobody sees us as leaders. When I applied for principalships, I was hitting walls because, as a Filipino man, I had more to prove to be seen as somebody who could take charge.
As an immigrant principal, I’m very sensitive to the needs of my students and the issues they face. I can empathize with how overwhelming it is for a kid who is new to the country. I understand being poor. I understand going to a really good school and still not being prepared enough because other people are extra-prepared. Whether or not they were more intelligent than me, having more resources gets you a leg up. So what can I bring to my kids and what resources can I bring to their community to help them?
You can’t educate somebody who has obstacles in their way. My job is to take away obstacles, whether it’s a learning deficit that they have, or vision problems, or having no Internet because their family can’t afford it. When you’re struggling, how can I help?
When I first got here, only 10 kids out of 94 were on track to graduate. It went up to 55% in my first year, which was a big leap but still bad according to the state. In the next years, we were up to 70%, then 81%, then 82%. I’m hoping for 83% this year. We are going to keep pushing even as we increase enrollment and have more and more kids in the school. More than test scores, we look at attendance. I care more about how they come in, when, and what they know.
I want to create principal pipeline programs for teachers based on what has helped me blossom as a principal. We’re always talking about the curriculum, the well-being of kids, and how to discipline teachers. We don’t talk as much about school culture and motivating people. But you can teach people, right? I can use my own experience to motivate others to cultivate a caring culture while setting high expectations.”
Immigrant Teachers + Rural America
Feat. Mary "M" Manda of Shelby, Montana
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