Choosing leadership and testing personal ability to make a difference | Chalkboard Project

Choosing leadership and testing personal ability to make a difference

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 Oscar Mareno Gilson

When I think about why I became a teacher, I believe it was a personal calling. My roles as principal and district leader, however, were more tied to outside influences, such as the demand for more diversity in school leadership.

I spent my childhood in Mexico, and then in the United States. Immigrating to a new country and attending two different education systems, made me insecure. I often doubted my abilities and didn’t think I could make a difference.

I became a teacher in large part due to the Portland Teachers Program (PTP) that encourages people from underrepresented populations to become teachers. While I was a teacher, I had a principal who commended me on my job although I didn’t believe her at first. After hearing such positive feedback from my principal, I thought: If I’m making a difference with 30 kids, is it possible I could make a difference with 300 kids?

That was my first step toward becoming a principal, which was at Lincoln Elementary in Corvallis. I realized I could make a difference with 300 kids and improve outcomes, using strategies such as making sure staff worked believing that all children can learn, and empowering parents to become a valuable support community. I later served as administrator in a few other schools and began asking myself what impact I could have for 3,000 kids?

Which brings me to the present: I recently became a senior director for Portland Public Schools, and joined Chalkboard’s Leading for Learning program. It might seem that being a district-level supervisor just takes common sense, but I can tell you that isn’t the case. At this juncture, my sincerest hope is to develop other leaders, as well as the usual roles of a school director. The specialized training I’m receiving is providing me with valuable support as I enter my newest leadership role—as a principal moving into a career where I am supervising other principals. And just like before, my hope is to make a difference for kids in my new role of working with principals—for improving outcomes today, and discovering new leadership for tomorrow.

NOTE: A short video of Leading for Learning participants, along with Oscar Moreno Gilson, shares personal perspectives and motivations for joining the training cohort.

  • Teacher Preparation
  • Equity and Diversity
  • Professional Development

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