New APs Join Tam’s Administration

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New APs Join Tam’s Administration

By James Finn

Leah Herrera

New AP Leah Herrera
Photo courtesy of Isabella Schloss

Wendy Stratton

New AP Wendy Stratton
Photo courtesy of Isabella Schloss

The Tamalpais Union High School District hired two new assistant principals (APs), Leah Herrera and Wendy Stratton, at Tamalpais High School prior to the start of the 2014 -2015 school year.

Assistant Principal Brian Lynch, who has served as one of Tam’s APs since 2012, said that the administration hired Herrera and Stratton based upon a set of standards the district looks for in new administrative candidates. “We want educators with a growth mindset, [who] believe that all students can learn at high levels,” Lynch said. “We want people who have established themselves as leaders… Wendy Stratton was a P.E. teacher-leader at Redwood. Leah Herrera has extensive experience with teacher coaching. Having someone with that strength…is going to be important.”

Stratton’s work as a teacher-leader provided her with the necessary experience to take up a position as an assistant principal at Tam. “That was a dual-role [job, and involved] both teaching and also participating in leadership decisions with administrators,” Stratton said. “I very much enjoyed having one foot in the classroom, one foot in leadership decisions, and I think it was that process that [showed me] that I felt prepared [to be an AP].”

Herrera, who lives in San Rafael and arrives to Tam after teaching math for seven years at ARISE High School in Oakland, also has experience as a teacher leader. “My work at [ARISE] was really [focused] around coaching teachers to improve their instructional practices to meet the needs of not just struggling learners, but kids who are already meeting our expectations,” Herrera said. Herrera is also looking forward to playing a greater role in her own community. “I actually live in San Rafael…and I was really interested in serving the community in which I live,” Herrera said. “APs are uniquely positioned to really be able to support kids….I was looking for a position where I could be involved with kids.”

Stratton, who accumulated 16 years of experience as a teacher prior to her arrival to Tam, has a number of goals she would like to accomplish as an assistant principal. “I would like to be a part of any initiative that impacts students in the classroom and their experience of learning,” Stratton said. “Whatever it is I’m doing…hopefully [I’m] creating an environment [centered] around having students feel safe and comfortable to learn.” Because of her background as a teacher, Stratton is interested in supporting teachers at the classroom level and helping to mold new instructional practices. “As a teacher I worked with other teachers modeling instructional strategies,” Stratton said. “I value teacher risk-taking as a teacher who has taken risks…I really support teachers taking risks with approaches to teaching content, [as far as] varying up the structures that they’re using to engage learners. I’m interested in working with teachers to support expanding teacher practice for [the benefit of] student learning.”

Herrera, whose background in math will allow her to work closely with Tam’s math department, would like to challenge the stereotypical image of the assistant principal. “My goals in general are to really change the paradigm of ‘you only meet your assistant principal when you’re in trouble,’” Herrera said. “My goal is to change to notion of what the assistant principal role is – that we’re really advocates for students and we’re not just people you’re sent to when you’re in trouble. I want to let kids know that we’re here if you need support researching colleges, finding a job, or whatever it may be.”

Both Stratton and Herrera felt that Tam’s community has been warm and welcoming in the wake of their arrival. “I feel really welcome here, and I feel like I’ve been here longer than I have,” Stratton said.

“The kids are awesome,” Herrera said. “I haven’t had one negative interaction. The teachers and the supporting staff are super friendly, really welcoming, making sure that I know what I need to know.”