Somoza-Norton inspired by those reinventing education

August 24, 2020
Andrea Somoza-Norton said teachers are her biggest inspiration because they are giving their all for the benefit of students. “Right now, they are reinventing education under extremely challenging circumstances,” she said. “School leaders and teachers are the most creative, brave and resilient people I know. Educators make it happen!” Somoza-Norton is ACSA’s Professor of Education award recipient for 2020. She said the best advice she has received has come from female leaders who served as mentors and provided guidance throughout her career. “Each one of them encouraged me to continue my self-development, to move forward, and persevere even though at times the path was rocky with steep steps to climb,” she said. “Mentorship and coaching have been key in my professional career.” What’s your favorite book on leadership? I have several favorite leadership books, but one that I go back to often is “Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World” by Margaret J. Wheatley. Wheatley’s words are inspirational, especially under the current conditions. What’s your favorite quote about leadership? “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela What are some of your favorite apps? Lately, I have been using Screencast-O-Matic to record lessons, provide feedback to students as I correct their essays, and record three- to five-minute messages to clarify concepts or to explain step-by-step instructions. Students like these visual messages and find them very helpful. What are the top five life hacks you would recommend for a new administrator? 1. Be humble. Move your ego aside, serve, and lead with passion and humility. 2. Be an equitable school leader. Advocate and act for those without a voice. 3. Be a listener. Communicate effectively. 4. Be visible. You should be over 10,000 steps every day. 5. Be organized and seek balance. Ask for help when you need it and calendar time for yourself. What made you want to become a school administrator? Although I loved being a classroom teacher, as an immigrant and English Learner, I felt I could be more useful and helpful to our students, parents, and teachers as a school administrator. It was exhilarating to be a new voice and bring fresh perspectives to the leadership team. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? When I arrived in the U.S., I did not know the language and had little savings. My priority was to learn the language to find a good-paying job. Being proficient in English allowed me to go from being an employee in housekeeping to becoming a professor. Learning a new language and culture was my biggest challenge. The hard work has paid off. I encourage everyone to continue learning and supporting those around you. What is your proudest accomplishment? At this time in my career, I find myself in a position to prepare aspiring educational leaders. Our Educational Leadership and Administration Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has made me very proud. I am thrilled to see our alumni becoming leaders not only in California but across the country.  What’s your pre-game ritual to get ready for a big meeting or presentation? Practice makes perfect. One of my passions is to play the saxophone. Like playing an instrument in a band, preparation and practice are key to ensuring a meeting or presentation runs smoothly.  What was the best ACSA event you’ve attended? In March, I attended ACSA Region 13 5th annual Mid-State Conference. Every year, I am always impressed with the work of the volunteers, the outstanding quality of the keynote speakers such as Dr. Pedro Noguera, and the excellent workshops. How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? As faculty of the ELAP, ACSA has been integral to my students and my growth as a leader. ACSA keeps me up-to-date and informed. Our ACSA regional leaders take the time to speak to our students about the importance and impact of school leadership. I am so grateful for their support and the time they spend in our classroom. What bucket list item do you hope to accomplish this year? I want to continue learning about synchronous and asynchronous online teaching and ways to support all students in this upcoming academic year and beyond. In turn, I hope to equip our graduates with the latest tools and knowledge to better serve their own students on an academic as well as social-emotional level. What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you/how has it inspired you as an educator? The education field has always been dynamic. The best leaders and teachers know the field is continually evolving. I am inspired and in awe at the way educators and students have adapted so quickly. However, we must persist in reaching every student. This crisis has taught us how important it is to collaborate and maintain community even online. Finally, let us not forget to lead with hope. “My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” – Mizuta Masahide (17th century Japanese poet).
ACSA Professor of Education of the Year Andrea Somoza-Norton.
Name: Andrea Somoza-Norton Award: Professor of Education of the Year Title: Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Educational Leadership and Administration Program at California Polytechnic State University ACSA highlights: member since 2018

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators