For #NationalPrincipalsMonth, I Thank Mr. Tiongco for Inspiring Me

I recently started graduate school again in the pursuit of an administrative credential. For years, I have known that the goal was to one day become a school leader that served the community I grew up in, but it was during a class discussion, however, that I began to really think about where my motivation to one day be a principal truly stemmed from. In having the opportunity to discuss with classmates some of the traits a “great principal” must possess, I realized that all my descriptions came from the first principal who inspired me to one day be in that same role: Mr. Tiongco.

Now to be fair, I highlighted Mr. Tiongco a while back as I wanted to share the power of a great leader and the impact great leadership can have not only on a school but on a community. However, given that October is the National Month for Principal Appreciation, I felt it necessary to highlight Mr. Tiongco in a different light.

While Mr. Tiongco was my first “boss” and my first instructional coach, he also served as my first exposure to servant leadership. In class, we often discuss that in order to be a successful principal, one must understand that the role of a school leader is not to be at the front at all times but rather be willing to serve others and be empathetic and able to facilitate potential. Administrative classes can sometimes feel too focused on theory over practice, but somehow the more I learned about servant leadership and the necessary leadership traits a leader must embody to be transformational, the more Mr. Tiongco came to mind. When I shared with the class, my experience as a first year teacher under Mr. Tiongco’s wing and the fact he went above and beyond in not only helping me sharpen my craft but also supported my dreams and aspirations, I realized not many of my classmates had ever had an experience similar to mine. For many of them, a great principal was someone who had not caused division at their school; for me, it had been someone who motivated ALL staff to “aspire not to have more, but to be more.”  He was the first to thank our lunch ladies for their hard work, while also being the first to commend teachers for their dedication. Our school was far from perfect, but in all its imperfections, his ability to lead from the heart allowed us all to also believe in the school’s mission to serve all children.

As we celebrate principals around the country, I encourage you to #ThankAPrincipal you know that has inspired you to be a better person. My own journey to Principalship is still a long way to go, but having role models like Mr. Tiongco at the forefront of my work makes the journey feel less like work and more like an exciting run to my dreams. If I already have access to knowledge regarding all the traits he has demonstrated as a principal — empathy, respect, loyalty, ambition, charisma, compassion, leadership — and know that those were a part of his secret to leading transformational schools, then at least I know I am already more prepared than many of my counterparts to one day take that role.

So today and always, thank you Mr. Tiongco for being the kind of leader that motivates all those around you to also go the extra mile; perhaps one day, we will live in a world where leaders like you are the norm and transformational change happens in every school. For now, I will just have to thank you for inspiring the rest of us to follow your footsteps.

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Alma Renteria

Alma Renteria

Alma-Delia Renteria is a proud product of Lynwood schools. As a student in Lynwood, Alma was very involved which developed in her a passion for community outreach and education. After graduating UC Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year earlier than anticipated, she decided to make her “4th year” of college a year of giving back by joining the national non-profit City Year. While at City Year Los Angeles, Alma built a strong network of education advocates which encouraged her to apply and join the prestigious Teach For America program. Upon joining TFA, Alma began her education career as a middle school teacher in Downtown Los Angeles. It was while teaching that she realized the need to do her part to help serve the community she grew up in. Alma was elected to the Lynwood School Board in 2013, where she made college accessibility/readiness a main priority. Alma completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University and is currently serving her second term as Board President for the Lynwood Unified School District. She also serves as a Digital Learning Instructional Coach at a dual immersion school in Pico Rivera.

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