Growing up in a home where both parents worked in education didn’t guarantee that the Herrera sisters would all become teachers, but it probably explains why they all value leadership and representation as ways to inspire future generations.
Their journeys have branched in different directions since leaving home and starting their own families – Meagan Claro ’22g is an elementary school teacher, Lauren Rivera ’22g is an ESL coach, and Allison Ramirez ’12 ’22g is a middle school biology teacher – but they never lost sight of those shared values.
Now they’re taking the next step together, working toward becoming leaders in their schools as candidates in New Paltz’s Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration Program.
Who holds leadership roles in schools, and why it matters
“Working in education” can mean a lot of different things, depending on who you ask.
It’s a profession that includes the millions of teachers who stand in front of classrooms day after day, helping prepare future generations for happy, fulfilling lives.
It also depends on countless educational administrators: Leaders in school districts, learning communities and government agencies whose work empowers students and teachers alike to succeed.
When they were young, the Herrera sisters got an insider’s look at both worlds: Their father was a social studies teacher, and their mother worked in the New York City Department of Education.
“Our father and mother always instilled the love and importance of having an education,” Claro said. “Many times we had the privilege of sitting in our father’s classroom. We would watch how he devoted so much love and compassion into his teaching. And our mother, who worked behind the scenes as a principal’s secretary, taught us the importance of organization and always giving your best in all that you do. At home, she pushed us to strive for greatness in education and beyond. They both were the catalyst for us to embark on this journey.”
One thing they learned along the way: Great school leaders need more than expertise in their field. They need compassion and empathy, and a drive to make the world a better place for the people around them.
That’s why the best education administrators often come from the classroom, with an understanding of what it takes to help a student who is struggling, and what it means to truly inspire a developing mind.
A pathway from the classroom to the superintendent’s chair
Another thing Meagan, Allison and Lauren learned together: Representation matters, especially in childhood education and development. They say that’s a big reason they’re working now to prepare for careers as school administrators.
“When I embarked on this journey, I was a little unsure of where I was going,” Claro said, “but I knew there aren’t many leadership roles held by people of color. It’s nice to be that representation for people, to show our students you can do anything you put your mind to.”
“Since I am in the STEM field, my hope is that I can work as a school district leader in the STEM field, representing the Latinx community,” Ramirez added. “I feel like that’s really important.”
The graduate program in Educational Administration at New Paltz is set up to help people just like the Herrera sisters make this transition from the classroom to leadership roles as principals and superintendents.
It’s a hybrid program designed for working teachers and other professionals, with flexible, part-time and online class options built around a busy professional’s life.
“The Coordinator, Art Gould, is so accessible,” Rivera said. “I’ll email him and have an answer from him within 24 hours.”
The program is structured as a cohort model where candidates work closely with faculty and with one another.
Of course, having your sisters there with you makes the cohort feel even more supportive. All three are working teachers, and both Rivera and Ramirez are moms. They have full plates, but they also have a shared dream to grow as leaders in their schools and communities. And they are working together to make that dream a reality.
“We lean on each other a lot,” Rivera said. “I love having my sister there in class because I don’t feel alone. I actually love going to class.”
Visit us on the web to learn more about the SUNY New Paltz Advanced Certificate in Educational Administration.