Teaching may be a second career for Johnson Elementary School Principal Cheryl Gomez, but education is her first passion.

As she pursued a degree in biology at Colorado State University-Pueblo, Gomez started her career in the business realm, where she wrote training manuals for companies and trained colleagues. She continued to find herself training others and writing course guidelines, which helped her realize her passion was for teaching other people, so her biology degree became a teaching certificate.

Gomez has taught at high needs, poverty-ridden schools and served as vocational director for School District 70 in Pueblo County. While serving as the vocational director, CSU-Pueblo recruited Gomez as the charter school leader, like a superintendent. She served in that role for seven years.

“It’s a charter school that is run by the university, but I also have to report to the local school district,” she said. “I reported to two different governing boards.”

Within her first two years in teaching, Gomez was selected as teacher in charge, meaning if the principal was out of the building, she was in charge. Naturally born to lead, Gomez realized she needed to earn her master’s degree.

“I figured it was inevitable to get my principal’s license,” Gomez said.

Gomez ended up working on her administrator’s license, which is just a little bit more than that.

Around 2009, the Gomez family decided it was a good time to move and with the accessibility to various outdoor recreational opportunities around Montrose, it just made sense to relocate in the area.

Obtaining her administrator’s license enabled Gomez to serve as a superintendent of schools for the Ridgway School District, which is how she ended up on the Western Slope of Colorado. She served as that district’s superintendent for five years.

Then, the family was preparing to make another move back to southern Colorado where Gomez had received a verbal offer to serve as a superintendent, but then a position opened in Montrose.

“What happened was Montrose school district had a late resignation for Johnson Elementary and I was interested in it because I had two boys about to be in high school at the time,” Gomez said. “They were both part of the lacrosse program getting up and running here in Montrose, so they wanted to play lacrosse for Montrose High School before they graduated.”

Gomez stayed and was offered the position at Johnson, which she has held for seven years.

Throughout her time in education, Gomez has seen the rigor increase for what students are expected to know — and she believes that needed to happen.She also has experienced a range of passion among teaching staff but is grateful to be surrounded by other passionate educators who are kid-centered at Montrose County School District.

“The staff that works for Montrose County School District are very passionate people,” she said. “I really appreciate that.”

Johnson Elementary School staff are just some of the passionate educators in MCSD, who show their resolve through various circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers have adapted to curriculum changes, staffing changes, program changes and various other day-to-day changes while remaining focused on providing a quality education to students.

“Elementary teachers are extremely flexible and nimble,” Gomez said. “It’s looked at as an opportunity to get sharper or improve their craft.”

During her second year as the JES principal, Gomez began working with staff to increase the presence of technology in the classroom. The goal is to have students use technology and show their work through the applications with their teachers without using paper, something JES continues to strive to improve upon every year.

“That takes a lot of time because teachers have to become experts at it and then students have to learn how they can best demonstrate what they know and what they’re able to do,” Gomez said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust teachers and students into that digital learning landscape. Understanding that every student and every family has different learning environments that affect the distance learning environment, Gomez and her staff continue to strive for a welcoming environment.

“We continue to provide an environment where the student feels safe and they want to be here and that they know they are heard,” she said. “It’s important that kids have stability and that’s why we’ve been so committed to providing elementary learning even with all of the masks, screenings of the temperatures, the contact tracing. We know students need that routine in their lives.”

One of the joys of being a principal for Gomez is seeing staff and students grow. Even during the pandemic, Gomez has seen students blossom behind their masks by raising their hands and speaking up in class.

In her role, Gomez is focused on ensuring staff has the resources they need in their classrooms and has worked to provide new reading resources, new interventions and new math resources over the past three years. She also works to provide an environment where teachers are not afraid to take risks.

“There are no failures,” Gomez said. “The most successful people in the world failed many, many times.

“We have to model resiliency and persistence. They (students) need to see that we are sometimes going to fail. Our kids need to see that.”

There are also times when Gomez enjoys praising her staff and students for trying a new teaching method or getting more involved in classroom discussion. This school year, students have also inspired Gomez.

“I’m inspired by our students who are reflective that school is different right now,” she said.

Outside of school, Gomez enjoys spending time with her family, going camping and outdoor recreation, going to the movies and cooking.

While Gomez has held various roles throughout her time in the education industry, her reason for pursuing a career in education remains centered on one thing — putting students first.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

Source Article