“I will do anything for the love of reading. Reading at or above grade level is a ticket to success for every child,” says new principal Michelle Garcia. She replaces Patricia Thomas, a longtime Ridgecrest principal, who retired in May.
Although she has been Ridgecrest’s assistant principal for three years, Garcia views herself as a learner, but one who identifies with and understands Ridgecrest student and family needs.
“Being principal is about learning a lot of new things – the budget and management matters, the whole organism of this school. I feel a huge responsibility to serve our children and the families of Ridgecrest,” she says, before exclaiming, “I’m excited!”
Her passion for Ridgecrest is born from her own family story. The U.S.-born child of immigrant parents, Garcia attended Houston ISD and later graduated from Sharpstown High. “I came from a community much like this one,” says the Spanish speaking principal.
She earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in interdisciplinary studies and bilingual education from Houston Baptist University. She has since been awarded her master’s degree in educational administration from Prairie View A&M University, and a business certificate from the well rated Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP).
She began her career in 1997 at Ridgecrest Elementary School, where she taught for three years. Later, Garcia served in a variety of language arts specialist positions, and she was both a district instructional and interdisciplinary coach for several years.
Looking back, one of her best memories is helping SBISD teachers learn how to guide students to read well. Literacy and reading, reading, reading are her passions.
As assistant principal, she was so impressed by a reading campaign promoted during a national KIPP Schools conference in Houston she started a schoolwide literacy campaign at Ridgecrest.
For her, program success was much more than meeting the 4 million minutes reading goal. “We knew that we were really winning when we saw our students reading on their own at recess and during lunch. A culture of reading on campus had grown on its own,” she recalls warmly.
It was during this literacy campaign that Assistant Principal Garcia cleaned pie off her face and took part in a mock Star Wars battle on stage during campus pep rallies for reading.
A grandmother, she is the parent of two adult children and 12-year-old twins who attend SBISD schools. In addition to campus and parent duties, she serves as the children’s ministry director and teacher at the nondenominational Dayspring Cypress Church. Her husband is pastor there.
A bit of a perfectionist, Garcia admits that applying for a principalship took courage on her part.
“I always feel that I could use more time, but since the opportunity arose, the time is now. I am passionate about this community, and I am confident about leading it on a journey into a new era,” she says. Let the journey begin!
BA, Cum Laude – Interdisciplinary Studies and Bilingual Education, Houston Baptist University
ME – Educational Administration, Prairie View A&M University
Business Certificate – Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program