When thinking about a principal’s daily routine, we might imagine a nine to five job within four walls; however, Tina Garza’s story tells us quite the opposite.
“We want to empower our students by giving them all these opportunities and provide them the best training possible!”
In a school, with four hundred students, at a ratio of seventeen students for each teacher, Mrs. Garza never misses a name. With students as the central focus, Tina likes arriving at school early so she can walk around campus and make sure they have all eaten breakfast to get them off to a good start. She also utilizes this time to engage with students and recognize any changes in students’ behaviour or attitude.
After the morning announcements, Mrs. Garza works on any pending project and all other work is saved for the evening.
She visits classrooms and engages students, asking them about their learning and checking for alignment. Tina Garza explains “if students can verbalize what they are learning, it means they understood the task at hand”.
Students perspective on the campus is very important and they express that through many reflective opportunities. Mrs Garza’s office door is a tribute wall comprised of post-it contributions by students.
Each post-it is a student’s statement about her. Students have confidence and trust her. “Trust is important and can be built by having someone who is constant in their lives”. This, in turn, provides the foundation to “inspire them to work hard toward success”, she explains.
“They need a science teacher, come for one year!”
Twenty-six years after beginning her career in education, Mrs. Garza now serves as the principal of Harlingen School of Health Professions. It turned out to be more than a one-year experience, as previously proposed by her mother.
Her natural talent, working with students who did not want to be in school or just dislike science, is aligned with the enriching experiences she provides to her current students. By making the difference in several kids’ lives, she is happy to say her “mission is accomplished”.
Classroom management was one of the competences Tina Garza brought from her extracurricular activity. Dancing was her second love and that was why she became a dance instructor for two years. Even though she once dreamed about opening a dance school, a knee injury forced her to change plans.
“Everybody had a job, so we learned how to work together”
Tina Garza came from very strong Mexican roots. She lived on a ranch with her family and learned her strong work ethic from the example set by both her parents. Her father was a high school math teacher, took on additional roles as the janitor and drove a school bus to make ends meet for the family. On the other hand, her mother, who served as the principal’s secretary for ten years, attended evening classes to become a teacher.
As a parent, Mrs. Garza stated that her mother’s innovation early on served as her inspiration. Beside working and her evening studies, she always searched for opportunities for innovation.
She taught her children how to crochet, create ceramics and although they were not wealthy, she always found a way to create positive experiences. Both her daughters were in dance, band and active in sports. Her son was also afforded experiences in sports, sharpshooting and other extracurricular activities.
“Your children witness what you have accomplished and they will strive to look for someone who is like you or stronger and exceed your expectations”
Six years from retiring, Tina Garza loves the system teachers and school professionals have created and hopes it continues to flourish. Together they help students believe on themselves so it becomes possible to achieve individual results.
As a mother of two sons, the oldest, a freshman in college and the youngest in the 10th grade, Tina wants them to exceed what she and her husband have achieved. Excited to see where they go and what will they choose to do in life, her greatest wish is for them to “be able to use their passion as motivation and go where their heart leads them”.