Ronald Salazar, principal of Birch Grove Elementary School for the Arts, has been named Magnet Schools of America’s region IV Principal of the Year. Salazar is in his fifth year as Birch Grove’s principal, though he has been in school administration for 17 years in other schools around Minnesota and other countries like Mexico and Venezuela.
“It’s humbling even just to be nominated,” he said. “Almost any other principal could have been given the honor, because we all work hard for the kids. I think anyone that goes into education has a mission to make the world a little bit better, one classroom, one child, and one building at a time.”
Salazar said he started out as a high school science teacher and loved the job, but he decided to move into administration to have an impact on a wider range of families, students, staff and community members. He said teachers and families have the strongest influence on student learning, so he sees it as critically important, in his role, to hire the best teachers to support Birch Grove students and help eliminate learning gaps in this diverse school.
Salazar said he loves Birch Grove’s commitment to educational enrichment as a tool for drawing in struggling students, along with its very clear vision and mission that the school’s arts magnet provides.
“It’s a great school with great kids and families,” he said. “The kids come to us for many reasons, and they stay because they love the arts and they develop very strong relationships with our staff. We work really hard on relationships and restorative practices, where we let the students know that if they make a mistake today, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance. But, we have high expectations for all of our children and we raise the bar for the kids.”
Salazar has been invited to the Magnet School of America’s national conference in Dallas, Texas, next month, where the national winner for Principal of the Year will be announced from the six regional winners.
“Whatever award is given to one of us is really given to everyone that works with us, because there’s no way that one person can accomplish much alone,” he said.