Remarkable principal Alfonso Lopez honored for outstanding service to his students
Principal Alfonso Lopez of Lewis and Clark Elementary is one of those rare leaders who achieves outstanding results and does so quietly and with great humility.
Lopez was honored as the state principal of the year by the Association of Washington School Principals at an assembly that was packed by Lewis and Clark students and staff. He’s now in the running for national principal of the year honors. For 13 years, Lopez has been at the helm of Lewis and Clark where he has turned a dual-language program into a model program.
True to his nature, Lopez accepted none of the credit. Instead, he honored others, including his wife, his mentor Connie Strawn, Flones, the staff, students and parents. “I don’t deserve this myself and I want to share with all of you this accomplishment,” said Lopez.
Lopez promised to keep striving for excellence. “I think we still have a lot to learn a lot to accomplish…. If not now, when and if not us, then who,” he said.
He also expressed his pride for the dual language program that was once controversial in the community but now is recognized as a rich learning environment that creates community in the school. About 40 percent of the students chose the school because parents see the value of learning two languages as a way to better prepare their children for success.
Lopez’s story, as Wenatchee Superintendent Brian Flones accurately described, is like something out of a story book.
Lopez came to the valley in the late 1980s from Mexico and worked in agriculture. In 1994 he became para professional at Lewis and Clark and then worked his way up to become the school’s reading teacher in 1995.
“I don’t deserve this myself and I want to share with all of you this accomplishment”Alfonso Lopez
In 1998, he won a national award from the Milken Family Foundation as an outstanding educator and also received an excellence award from the state. The funds he received were spent pursuing his credentials to become a principal.
When Flones first came to the district, Strawn and Lopez advocated developing a dual-language program at the school in which half of each class would be taught in English and half in Spanish.
It was severely questioned by the community early on, but Lopez and Strawn went to service clubs, public meetings and other civic organizations to make the case for supporting the effort.
The decision was made to implement the program and it turned out to be a great decision for the district. Studies show that students who have solid speaking and literacy development in two languages are academically at an advantage over other students, Flones told me. The integrated environment also has helped create meaningful connections between Latino and Caucasian students, he added.
That’s why schools from around the state are visiting Lewis and Clark to learn from its experiences.
When Strawn retired in 2006, Lopez was chosen to replace her. Even though Lopez is quiet and humble, he works exceedingly well with families, said Flones. Running a dual-language school requires a lot more effort and coordination with parents, teachers.
At the assembly honoring him, Lopez talked about the other principals in the district being smarter than he is. Personally, I think the state association made an outstanding choice in naming him principal of the year.
What a gift to our valley and especially our students.