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Posted: February 5, 2021

Checking In With Jonathan Saiz of Governor Bent Elementary School

The APS Education Foundation is highlighting grantees who are thinking outside of the box to reach their students during remote and hybrid learning.

Principal Saiz with NM Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart

Principal Saiz with NM Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart

Governor Bent Elementary School has been a recipient of numerous APS Education Foundation grants over the years, including the Alliance Data Community Literacy Mentoring Award which established their program focused on improving literacy by engaging volunteers to serve as one-on-one mentors for students.  We caught up with Principal Saiz to learn more about him and to check in with how he and his staff are doing during the pandemic.

Why did you get into education?

My teachers have always inspired me. Their impact has been so significant I wanted to follow in their footsteps and pass the torch to the children of the community that gave to me. 

What was your first thought when you learned that you and your staff would teach students and work with families remotely? 

Let's do this! We have a solid and dedicated group of professionals ready to roll up their sleeves and get right to work. 

Tell us about some of the major challenges you have faced as a school leader during this time.  

We have never experienced anything like this before where we turn one way, and we have students and staff, and within 48 hours, we distanced and are only connected by computers. Not seeing our students and staff every day is very difficult for me. Our school is a large family, and we take care of each other. 

Talk about Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and why Governor Bent Elementary School (GBES) believes this to be a critical focus.

We have three pillars at GBES, and one of the pillars is SEL. SEL is as essential as English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. With SEL, Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision-making are elements children must learn. In my opinion, SEL is the foundation that all skills build upon.

Talk about being a community school and why you feel the community is so important to public education. Do you think individuals outside of your school community know how much of an impact they can make?

Schools need to move away from involvement to engagement. As we start our first year as a community school, we have a community school council comprising families, community leaders, community partners, and school staff. A community school identifies a need from families, students, and staff. The community school council develops a plan of action based on the data to address and remove the community's barriers. Many community members want to help at the school, but they do not know how to participate. Through the Four Pillars of Community Schools, the community school council identifies ways community members can become engaged. 

Do you have a funny and/or inspiring story of remote learning or working with your staff and faculty?

Every morning I conduct morning announcements online, and the students see and hear what is coming up.  In January, during the remote materials pickup, a kindergarten student looked at me and said, "Are you, Mr. Saiz? The one on the computer?" He was so excited to see me. I felt like a celebrity. I pulled back and remembered he has never been on campus and has never seen me in "real life." 

For any young people looking into becoming an educator, what would be your advice, and how would you inspire them to continue on the career path?

Education is the cornerstone of our community, and it is the one place where everyone walking into a school has an equal playing field. As educators, we inspire, encourage, drive, and love our scholars. If you want a rewarding profession where you get to make a significant difference in others' lives, become an educator! Because "teaching is the essential profession that one that makes all other professions possible." If you want to enter the field of education, let’s talk!