Lourdes Diaz nominated for Principal of the Year

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 0 Comments

Lourdes Diaz nominated for Principal of the Year


From the moment they set foot on Miami Lakes Educational Center’s (MLEC) campus, students and their teachers focus on the future. 

“High school is important, but that is not the goal. Students are here to prepare for tomorrow,” said Lourdes Diaz, principal of MLEC. 

Students are told that they will graduate and that they will be prepared to succeed, all with Diaz’s promise to help them every step along the way. 

Diaz is one of the best principals in the District. She is currently the North Region Principal of the Year, and is one of four principals competing for the recognition of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Principal of the Year.

MLEC is a Title I school. Eighty-eight percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The majority are either first-generation or immigrants themselves, originating from over 33 countries.

For many of these teens, knowing that their principal not only knows them, but believes in them, can make all the difference.

“Mrs. Diaz had a personal connection with many students, and she’s invested in our success,” said Michael Samper, who attended Hialeah Middle School under Diaz’s tenure and is now a junior at the University of Florida. 

Diaz cares about her students because she says she is like them. She is from South Florida, and her parents were Cuban immigrants that worked very hard to provide for their family. They instilled in her the value of hard work and dedication. It was their unwavering support that always propelled her.

So after graduating from Miami High in 1989, she attended college at Brown University and majored in English, American Literature and Psychology. She was far from home, but home was never far from her thoughts. During her breaks from school, she returned to Miami and often worked at her old high school, volunteering and substituting.

“I didn’t choose education, education chose me,” said Diaz. “I loved school, I loved to be around school. So (on breaks) I would help out the teachers, my old coaches.” 

Once she graduated, she came back home and was greeted with a new opportunity. 

“There was an opening when a teacher left on maternity leave, and my old principal offered me the job,” said Diaz. 

 “I taught ninth grade all day that first year and it changed my life,” she said of her first teaching assignment. The following year, she moved to Barbara Goleman Senior High (BGSHS), a brand new high school, and became part of its inaugural faculty. There, she taught English and coached basketball and softball. 

After a few years of teaching, and after earning a degree in Educational Leadership, Diaz became an assistant principal at Coral Park Senior High School. Over the next few years, she worked at several schools before becoming a principal.

“She has always been focused and a team player. One well respected by students and colleagues, none of those qualities have changed,” said Charlesette Chavis, an English teacher at MLEC who taught with Diaz at BGSHS. 

Her past experiences as a teacher, coach and administrator led her to MLEC, an A school which has received numerous awards and recognitions over the last three years, including becoming a Nationally Accredited Magnet School of Excellence.

“It takes a nuanced leader who can examine small details and make impactful decisions,” said Helena Castro, Activities director at MLEC. 

“Ms. Diaz has worked to improve educational opportunities for students, as well as enhance the school as a whole,” said Castro.

She has worked to create an even greater sense of community, both in and out of school. During Hurricane Irma, MLEC served as a shelter. It was also one of the shelters that the Red Cross did not have the man power to assist, but Diaz was there. 

“I worked with the town to lend support and assistance, and we were happy to find that Principal Diaz was here providing food, shelter and a sense of normalcy during the storm,” said Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid.

Schools are not just buildings. They are an integral part of the community. And the people who walk the hallways, students, faculty and staff all have a hand in building the future. That responsibility and privilege is not lost on Diaz.

She works with students that are working to solve real-world problems, and they are thriving and learning, but they are also focused on how those lessons will propel them into the future.

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