Richard Lopez wasn’t expecting to be honored for what he does each day, helping students at his school improve as they learn.
Lopez, principal of Planada Elementary School, was named the Educator of the Year by the Association of Mexican American Educators of Northern California. He has been the principal at Planada Elementary for seven years.
“Oh, man, I was surprised,” Lopez said. “To me it’s just a recognition of the work we do.”
Jose Gonzalez, Planada School District superintendent, was elated that the organization is honoring Lopez on Friday at a program in Modesto.
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“The Planada Elementary School District learning community is extremely proud of Mr. Lopez,” Gonzalez said. “Mr. Lopez is an innovative leader and spokesperson who is deeply committed to the district’s mission and the distinct needs of our learning community.”
Gonzalez said Lopez is a strategic thinker, persuasive communicator, capable advocate for all children, and spirited motivator of students, parents and staff. He has a high level of personal and professional integrity along with optimism, energy and a good sense of humor, Gonzalez said.
Lopez, 44, said his experience in Planada has been wonderful. His school has 503 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and 27 teachers. The school has grown 159 points, to 813, on the API score for state achievement testing.
Jacquelin Gonzalez, a parent volunteer and secretary of the school’s Site Council, said she has worked with Lopez for two years. She said Lopez has been very supportive in all areas and tries his best to meet the school’s needs, particularly as it transitions to state-mandated Common Core instructional standards.
David Rodriguez, president of the board of trustees, said Lopez is an excellent educator and Planada has been lucky to have him. His nomination for the educator award confirms confidence in his capabilities.
Lopez has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from American International University, a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University and an associate’s degree from Merced College. His goal is to eventually become a school superintendent.
The Association of Mexican American Educators, which has 40 chapters, was formed in 1965; its mission statement said the group strives to ensure equal access to financial resources for a quality education for Latino students at all levels and advocates for ongoing recruiting, retention and development of Mexican American educators.