Dr. George Lopez, PYLUSD 2019 Summer Enrichment Principal, wants the students enrolled in the summer program to develop a “love for engagement and to practice taking chances.” His story as a student who struggled and succeeded serves as a motivating example of “practicing what you preach.”
Dr. Lopez, who just completed his first year as principal at Woodsboro Elementary, and finished his formal education with a PHD in Educational Leadership, was motivated by his experience struggling in high school to become a life-long learner.
“I graduated Chula Vista High School in 1986. I struggled as a high school student,” Dr. Lopez recalled. “I barely passed with a 1.0 GPA.”
“I did not attend college as did many of my friends, I ended up working for a large grocery store company.” Lopez spent 18 years in that business. “I worked and earned my way to becoming a store manager, and later becoming a director overseeing a department in the corporate office,” added Lopez.
Dr. Lopez never initially wanted to work in education, but he had to put in volunteer hours for his job at a big grocery chain. “So I decided to volunteer at a school in East Los Angeles (Ford Elementary). I loved it so much I went back to school,” explained Dr. Lopez.
But because Dr. Lopez was bothered that he had not done well academically in high school, he was determined to do something about it.
“At the age of 28, I went to see a counselor and Fullerton Community College. I took a placement test and the results were very disheartening,” stated Lopez. He had to start classes in remedial English and math. “This time I was determined not to repeat my high school days.”
Dr. Lopez later graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a 3.89 GPA, while working over 50 hours a week.
“I later earned my teaching credentials, two masters, and my doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. I have presented at a number of events. I previously taught at CSUF in the masters/administration program,” Dr. Lopez added.
Previous to his principalship at Woodsboro, Dr. Lopez had an extensive career as an educator. “I was a middle school teacher; I taught ELD, honors, and computers.I was an assistant principal for four years and principal for seven years. I have been on many task forces at the district level,” added Dr. Lopez.
However, being a school principal can bring its own special challenges, according to Dr. Lopez. “The biggest challenge is finding ways to gather the different beliefs of what an education means from the perspective of teachers, parents, district, and from the state level.”
During summer enrichment a simple but important challenge involves protecting students as they enter and leave the parking lot. “ Student drop off and pick up,” according to Dr. Lopez is always a challenge.
Throughout his career and many years of self-reflection, Dr. Lopez has discovered that he loves leadership and serving others.
“ I love creating positive school cultures,” explained Dr. Lopez. “ I love to ensure students, regardless of background or status are receiving the best and safe education.”
Dr. Lopez’s desire to create a positive school culture for all students can be attributed in large part to the experiences of his parents.
“Both of my parents came from poor upbringings. What they taught me was the value of hard work and treating everyone with respect, regardless of their status in life.”
“ I am grateful and thankful for the many great people and family members I am surrounded by,” Dr. Lopez added. “ My success is greatly due to them.”
Dr. Lopez has thought “long and hard” about his teaching philosophy.
“This is a very deep question, he responded. “ I can spend hours on this topic. I will give you the short version. Teaching is more than a great lesson plan. Teaching starts with first and foremost this…You have to truly love kids. And not just love the ones that you can teach or the ones who want to learn.”
“Every student who walks on our campus is our child. We don’t get to pick and choose whom we want to teach, treat fair, treated badly, or simply ignore. We are educators. Our profession asks of us to inspire, motivate, and teach.”
Dr. Lopez still considers himself a student. “I am on a personal quest to better myself everyday in the following areas: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. So each day I am intentional in bettering myself.”