Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk Blog: Magdalena Ruiz – a story of persistence and effort

It’s easy for a principal to write about the wonderful accomplishments of a school. We have so many positives, including academics, Science teams, awards winning music programs, and sports teams. There is always a person behind those positive accomplishments. For example, it can be a coach, a teacher, or a counselor who has a positive effect on our school and students.

I want to focus on one teacher who I recently connected with and had the pleasure of getting to know more about her life. Her story is one of triumph — one of overcoming obstacles to become a role model and great teacher. When I was first hired as a principal, the superintendent gave me a few words of advice. He said, “take all the blame and give all the credit.” With Magdalena Ruiz, it is easy to follow that advice. She deserves all the credit for being a great teacher.

Magdalena Ruiz is the Pomolita Teacher of the Year representative for North Coast Middle Schools. She is the Social Studies Department Chair, teaches Ballet Folklorico and our Si Se Puedo Latino Leadership class. She is a wonderful caring educator who has high expectations for students. She is well-liked by students and respected as a leader by staff. I could go on commenting on what a terrific teacher she is, but her life story is even more compelling.

Magdalena grew up in a small town in Michoacán, Mexico. Her life was full. Family, friends, and school were her life. The school in her small town, like many in rural Mexico, only went up to 6th grade. To go to 7th grade meant she would have to live in a bigger city a long way away from home, alone at 11 years old. Even though her family valued education, her father said no to moving to a larger city alone, but was fearful of her future.

For three years, she didn’t attend school. Her family kept her home to help out with her mother and brothers and sisters. During those three years, her mother and father made the decision to move to the United States seeking a better life. After a lot of time and preparation, her family made the move to northern California. Life for Magdalena was now in Healdsburg, CA. She knew no English when she enrolled at Healdsburg High. With much hard work and great effort, she graduated in 1997.

Magdalena was married soon after high school. Her first child was born, and that, along with her husband’s support, motivated her to go to college. For three years, she took classes at Santa Rosa Junior College to learn English to get a better job. After she completed English as a Second Language classes, she decided to get her Associates of Arts Degree. After being successful with her AA degree, she decided to go to Sonoma State and get a Bachelor’s of Arts degree, and in 2005 she graduated. It must have been a proud moment for her husband and family to see her reap the rewards of her years of hard work.

Magdalena was the first in her family to get a Bachelor’s degree.  She decided to dedicate her career to working with young people as a teacher. She went on to receive her teaching credential from Sonoma State. We were lucky to hire her to teach Social Studies in our Dual Language Immersion Program at Pomolita. Many students have been lucky to have had Mrs. Ruiz as their teacher. Last year, Mrs. Ruiz went back to school to get her Administrative Credential and will finish her Master’s degree in Curriculum later this year. Her story is one of persistence and effort. Throughout her education, she had a desire to become a US Citizen. She achieved this goal and is proud of her US Citizenship. She is also very proud of her heritage.

You would think that she would readily share her success story and wear it on her sleeve, but she doesn’t. Few worked as hard as she has to make a better life for her and her family. But her story is a personal one that is deserving to be told. I am proud to know Magdalena and proud to tell her story. She deserves all the credit she can get. I hope that one day soon, she will use her administrative credential and become a principal. It is a challenge she has proven to be ready to take, and her history has shown she will be successful.