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Erika Tejeda was the first principal at Perris Union High School District’s Liberty High School, which opened in August 2021. Part of her exemplary service includes ushering in four career pathways to put every student on a path to excel and graduate.
Tejeda confronts challenges head-on
August 21, 2023
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Erika Tejeda Award: Secondary Principal of the Year Title: Principal, Liberty High School, Perris Union HSD ACSA highlights: Member since 2016; Vice President of Membership, Region 19 and WRCASM; ACSA Rep to the CIF; ACSA Legislative Policy Committee.
As the first principal of Liberty High School, which opened in August 2021, Erika Tejeda had her work cut out for her. Tejeda worked day and night to prepare the school site for students and staff, even during construction delays due to COVID-19. She made sure to bring on a leadership team that was committed to her own vision for student success for the new, technology-focused school.
Liberty High School’s mascot is the bison; Tejeda created the acronym “HERD,” which stands for “Honorable, Exemplary, Respectful and Determined.” These values give focus for not only Liberty High students, but for Tejeda herself. Part of her exemplary service to students includes ushering in four career pathways to put every student on a path to excel and graduate.
Perris Union High School District Superintendent Grant Bennett said Tejeda “never shied away” from the daunting task that was opening a new high school.
“Erika was involved with every aspect of getting the school opened, ranging from selecting furniture to buying band uniforms to selecting staff,” Bennett said. “In every single case, Erika had a keen focus on the long run.”
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? “Often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller. This isn’t necessarily a leadership quote; however, as administrators, we need to look at different ways of getting the job done and not become discouraged when things do not go as planned.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Remember who you are, where you came from and why you started on this journey, especially when the days are tough.
What’s your best strategy for work-life balance? Work-life balance is a tricky one. The strategy that has worked for me and I continue to fine-tune is to be present, whether at work or at home. I try to incorporate mindfulness and gratitude daily.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? Take a break when you need it, go for a short walk and gather your thoughts. We have to make so many decisions and adhere to so many deadlines that it is important to center ourselves and step away for a minute to clear our head.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? People would be surprised to know that I love cooking competition shows. I also love to cook. I do not measure anything, I just ask the ancestors for guidance, haha!
What made you want to become a school administrator? I wanted to be a role model for students who looked like me and came from a similar background and let them know that they could become anything they wanted in the future. Representation is very important and it is important that students can see themselves in me.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? I am a first-generation Chicana; overcoming imposter syndrome has been, and some days continues to be, the biggest challenge for me.
What are you most proud of accomplishing? Professionally, I am the proudest of being the founding principal of Liberty High School. To open a new high school has been an amazing honor and accomplishment. We will have our first graduating class next June.
How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position? ACSA has always had a seat at the table for me. I never felt out of place or like I did not belong. I have been able to participate in various professional development and leadership opportunities that have helped prepare me for the next step.
How are you prioritizing mental health for yourself, your staff and/or your students? I am a strong believer in supporting my students and staff with any and all resources available. I have an open-door policy for students and staff and am always available if they need me. As for myself, I try to incorporate mindfulness, gratitude and giving myself grace when things are difficult or challenging.
2023 Secondary Principal of the Year Erika Tejeda.
2023 Secondary Principal of the Year Erika Tejeda.