Annamarie Montañez ’02, ’14 remembers the encouragement her parents showed her when she decided to go to college and become an educator.
She draws inspiration from that support as principal of the Jurupa Valley Unified School District Adult Education and Community Day School. There, she pays it forward by mentoring other Latina professionals and helping them counter cultural expectations that can hamper them from following a similar path.
“For myself, not being married and not having kids, I’ve been freed up,” Montañez said. “But I know other women I’ve worked with or mentored who must deal with all these challenges and expectations.”
Montañez mentors and supports Latinas as a member of the California Association of Latina Superintendents and Administrators. She previously served in University of Southern California’s Latina Leadership Academy.
Montañez chose to get her master’s at the University of La Verne on a friend’s recommendation.
“I had such a good experience that I selected La Verne to get my doctorate as well,” said Montañez, who completed her coursework in 2012 and her dissertation in 2014. She is currently working on clearing her administrative credential.
The district hired Montañez in July 2016 as assistant principal of the Jurupa Valley Adult Education and Community Day School after she completed her doctorate. The district promoted her to principal five months later.
“I had spent most of my career in Los Angeles Unified School District on the east side, which is very low income and highly Hispanic,” Montañez said.
“In Jurupa, I found the population of students to be very similar, so it was a good fit for me.”
Montañez brought energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to expand the program offerings in a community that is in dire need of basic education and low-cost career technical education training. The school launched a medical assistant program in October 2016 with 23 students. All but one of those students completed the program in June 2017, and more than half of the graduates were hired by area hospitals and medical offices where they interned. This year, the school will add programs for pharmacy technicians, security guards, phlebotomists, heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians, and solar panel installation.
Montañez considers one of her biggest challenges to be giving people in the community the confidence to be successful.
“Many of them work day-to-day and worry about paying bills or putting food on the table,” she said. “It makes it hard for them to see the possibilities of what can be with a little education and training.”
Montañez credits the University of La Verne’s doctoral program with giving her the tools she needs to be successful.
“A big part of what we’re working on is changing the culture and understanding change and the difficult conversations that come with that,” she said.
“I would be at a great disadvantage without skills in group dynamics, change models, and making sure people understand what’s in it for them.”