Walking into the room 108 in the administrative office, one may remember a tie-clad Mr. Rice there to greet them. Now it’s Assistant Principal Tenisha Tate’s room, and she has already made it her own.
“I always feel like if you’re replacing someone, you actually can’t replace them. [Rice] made his mark, and it’s not my intention to compete with that,” Tate said. “The kids that he affected, they’re gonna feel that loss of him not being here, I know that. My job is to create connections with as many kids as I can.” With a plethora of teaching experience under her belt, Tate’s new office is but the newest symbol of her teaching career. Tate has worked at multiple K-12 jobs both inside and outside the Bay Area, including Bayside MLK in the Sausalito-Marin City district and Hall Middle School in Larkspur-Corte Madera. She has worked as an assistant principal for the past seven years.
While Tate’s teaching career demonstrates her commitment to education, what is most striking is her community service work as founder and executive director of a non-profit called 2Gen Equity, aimed at interrupting the poverty cycle of young women and their kids, including having volunteers come over after school to practice educational exercises with the mother and child.
“We quickly saw gains in the kids and quickly saw moms connecting with their kids more often,” Tate said. “That work is near and dear to my heart, because I was a single mom and I also understand that some people don’t have access to the information.”
Even with a vast array of experience behind her, Tate is excited to take up the job of assistant principal once again.
“I felt inclined to be at Tam because the school and the population and the number of kids that I could affect was a draw,” Tate said. “When I think about Southern Marin, and what school I would want to work in, that would be Tam High School. The diversity that’s reflected here, and the fact that it’s connected to the community that I live in [were draws]. My husband went to Tam High School, he’s an alumni here, so I felt connected to Tam on different levels.”
Tate’s growing enthusiasm for the community shines through and is clear when talking to her. “I’m just trying to get the lay of the land, I obviously want to make sure that students know that I’m here to support them, but I’m also here to hold them accountable,” Tate said. “I think what’s special about Tam is that it has a long history and tradition of excellence that we all want to maintain as well as continue to develop and actually grow.”
One thing Tate emphasizes is her focus on personal relationships with students. “Relationships are really important. I left my previous school and all the kids [I knew]. I miss the day to day connections with kids so I hope that I can build relationships with kids in the next couple months and regaining that sense of community,” she said.
While Tate is still getting accustomed to her role at Tam, her goals to reach out to students sticks out more than anything else.
“The first thing that I want Tam students to know about me is that I am a person,” Tate said. “I’m more than just an assistant principal. I have feelings, I have emotions, I’m a person. I also want them to know that I deeply care about their best interest and their success, and although we may be at odds at times or I may have to redirect them or provide a consequence, that’s not coming from a place of disdain or of malice, it’s because one it’s my job, and two it’s because I would much rather students have a consequence now and learn from their mistakes and not make those mistakes again than to make those mistakes later in life and have a bigger consequence.”
Tate even stops me on my way out the door to emphasize her point. She tells me, “I’m a mother, that’s a part of my identity. I’m a wife, and I love to laugh at good jokes, and I like to shop.”
Photo by Ethan Swope