This featured article for episode #7, “How Educators Deal With The Changing Times,” features Brian De Gonza, an Elementary School Principal at Imagine Schools in West Melbourne, Florida, who has achieved remarkable success in transforming his school into a thriving community of 600-700 students.
In this interview, we delve into Brian’s journey as an educational leader, his commitment to character development and community building, and the exceptional educational opportunities he has provided for his students. As we explore his insights and experiences, we gain valuable lessons on enrollment growth, family engagement, and the continuous pursuit of improvement in education.
Brian’s Remarkable Journey
Over the past nine years, Brian has led his school from a modest enrollment of around 100 students to a thriving educational institution. His passion for education and unwavering dedication to his students’ success have been key factors in this remarkable transformation. Through his leadership, Brian has created a vibrant and inclusive environment that fosters character development and a strong sense of community.
Navigating the Pandemic
The conversation highlights with Mitchell Slater, the School Success Podcast host, asking Brian about the challenges his school has faced and how they have navigated through them. Brian emphasizes the significance of having students in school for their overall development, mental health, and socialization. However, the pandemic posed a significant hurdle, with teachers adapting to virtual learning and parents having to support their children’s education from home. Brian discusses the flexibility required to ensure students receive adequate academic support, implementing daily pullout small groups to catch up on missed lessons. Brian expresses gratitude for his dedicated staff and their unwavering commitment to the students despite the challenges.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Mitchell further delves into the broader issues the education sector faces, such as teacher recruitment and retention. Brian explains that finding quality candidates has become increasingly tricky, attributing this trend to the decline in the candidate pool nationwide, including in Florida. He highlights the need for passionate and educated individuals who can contribute to building future leaders. Brian emphasizes that current accountability measures and legislation often overlook the expertise and dedication required to be an effective educator, leading to feelings of disrespect among teachers. He stresses the importance of increasing teacher salaries and improving the overall perception of the profession to attract the best and brightest candidates.
Expressing Gratitude for Educators
Throughout the conversation, both Mitchell and Brian emphasize the importance of recognizing and appreciating educators. Mitchell shares his experience of showing gratitude to his son’s teachers by providing personalized gifts such as coffee. Brian adds that even small gestures like handwritten notes or emails can significantly impact teachers, acknowledging the immense effort they put into their work beyond regular school hours. He compares teaching to doctors and lawyers, suggesting that elevating the status and respect for educators would attract more talented individuals to the field.
Impacting Students’ Lives
Drawing from his own experiences as a teacher and school leader, Brian echoes Mitchell’s sentiments regarding the long-lasting impact teachers can have on students. He recounts instances where former students reached out years later to express gratitude and appreciation for his role in their lives. Brian acknowledges that educators constantly question themselves about their effectiveness, but these heartfelt connections with students serve as a reminder of the profound influence they can have.
This episode sheds light on the ongoing struggles during the pandemic, the need for more teachers, and the significance of appreciating educators. Brian’s insights highlight the complex challenges and the importance of community support. Recognizing the dedication of educators is vital for improving the education system and students’ futures.
To gain a deeper understanding, listen to the full episode of this episode in the School Success Podcast.