Nancy Bernardino was born in Mexico, raised in Dallas, was the first person in her family to graduate college, married her high school sweetheart, has four boys, is the founder of Solar Prep School for Girls (a choice-school in Dallas ISD)—but, these days, she spends most of her time working on a doctorate (EdD) in Educational Leadership from Southern Methodist University.
Nancy’s dissertation focuses on what school districts can do to recruit and retain Latina principals in urban school districts. A significant factor turns out to be having a mentor. Once you know Nancy’s personal story, this won’t surprise you one bit.
Looking for a mentor of your own? Sign up for Talk to a Teacher to ask questions about the profession and get free career advice.
Opportunities to advance in education
In her first education job, Nancy worked as a second grade bilingual teacher at George W. Truett Elementary School. She caught the eye of her principal, who soon became a personal advocate. So when that same principal opened a new school, E.D. Walker Middle, Nancy was encouraged to take the EC-12 certification test that would allow her teach Spanish to older students.
Curious to know how teacher certifications work? Check out Getting Certified to learn more about your options.
Nancy taught Spanish to middle schoolers, but her career progressions didn’t stop there. After all, her ultimate goal at the time was to become a principal:
When I entered education—and this was part of my lack of experience—I emailed the director and said my goal was to become a principal. I didn’t get a response. Now I know that this is because you must be a teacher before you’re a principal in order to support the work that teachers do.
So, Nancy transitioned to Dan D. Rogers Elementary to become an instructional coach. In this new role, she supported teachers with professional development advice, feedback and teaching materials. This additional experience qualified Nancy for more competitive positions, eventually enabling her to become the principal of John Q. Adams Elementary in 2012.
Outside of mentorship, one of Nancy’s greatest reflections on finding opportunities for advancement in her career centers on empowering women:
Over the years in my career, I’ve noticed that women are not really great at selling themselves. We hold ourselves back, whereas men tend to take the leap. So, as a boss, I encourage women to apply to positions for promotion—and assure them that they’re ready to do so. You have to make it an expectation.
Like in other industries, it’s imperative to build a solid technical foundation—and build your network—in order to gain expertise and progress in your career. Whether it’s adding on certifications to teach new and different subjects and grade levels, or moving from a teaching position to one in administration, a good mentor and self-confidence can go a long way.
Think you’re ready for a fulfilling career in education? Build your Roadmap to get started.
Teachers have endless horizons
Your career is won among friends. Build your network, find mentors along the way, and always reach for the next step on your ladder.
There are a lot of areas of opportunity for growth and career advancement for teachers. But this is not something that can be done alone: When you connect the district to the city, you’ll find the individuals who will guide you to the right path.
Nancy Bernardino is one of those individuals, and we’re thankful for her this Teacher Appreciation Week. Take all the wisdom you can get from those who’ve accomplished amazing things.
If you’re interested in learning more about teaching, consider taking the next step:
- Sign up for Application Checklists to keep track of deadlines when applying to a teacher preparation program.
- Build a Roadmap to determine your fit for the profession.
- Talk to a Teacher for free career advice.
Header image courtesy of the SMU blog.