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Devoting 25 Years to the Same School Community

03 April 2024

By Marisela Ramirez, Assistant Principal at Cardenas Elementary School

Cardenas AP

You could say that my journey to becoming an assistant principal started in my counselor’s office back when I was a CPS student. I was lucky to have an amazing counselor who took me under her wing. She was my inspiration to work in education. 

I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career that focused on helping others. I was always willing to help out in the counselor’s office, and my counselor told me that she believed that I had the patience and right attitude to excel as a teacher. 

So becoming a teacher is exactly what I did. I thought I was going to end up teaching high school, but I somehow wound up teaching first grade at Cardenas Elementary School in Little Village. That was 25 years ago, and I am still at Cardenas today. This school truly feels like a second home. I am so proud to work here. 

You may be curious about how I decided to transition from becoming a teacher to working in school administration. I sometimes wonder that too, since I am not the kind of person who enjoys the spotlight or feels like I know everything. I think what prompted me the most was having an amazing principal who pushed me to take on more responsibility. 

When I became an assistant principal, one of my top priorities was to never forget where I started out as a teacher. I didn’t want to be a leader who set unreasonable expectations because they forgot to look at things from a teacher’s point of view. When we have professional development opportunities, I am right there alongside my teachers learning with them. If a teacher needs something for their classroom, I make every effort to provide it for them. 

One of my roles at Cardenas before transitioning into administration was being a bilingual coordinator. This role required me to lead many parent meetings, and I grew my passion for working with parents. I still have this passion in my current role, and I hope our parents see me as caring, understanding, and responsible. 

Having strong relationships with our teachers and parents is a great foundation for supporting our students. My top priority right now is increasing student attendance. When our students are in school consistently, our entire team is more likely to help them close the academic gaps that exist because of the pandemic. 

Our ultimate goal is that all of our students become independent thinkers and pursue a postsecondary plan. This doesn’t necessarily have to be college. We want them to know that trade schools are a viable option for them as well. 

I have been at Cardenas for so many years that I’m now seeing my former students bringing their children to the school. It is wonderful to see that many of them have pursued careers that are beneficial to the Little Village community, the same community that I grew up in. And, now, they are motivating their children to do the same. 

No two days are the same as an assistant principal, and you never quite know how the day is going to unfold. Sometimes the day goes by so fast that you lose track of time. You will never be bored, and that is one of the best parts. 

Another one of my favorite parts is when former students come back to our school to check in. They may not even be coming back to see me in particular, but this highlights that they remembered that the adults at Cardenas cared about them. 

That is my ultimate message to my students. I want them to come to school ready to learn and ready to have fun. I want them to enjoy their time here and soak up everything their teachers are teaching them. These years will go by so fast for them, and I feel honored to know that I play a part in making this time of their lives positive and memorable.

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