In the midst of a career transition, Angela Crawley came to Anzar High School going on six years ago.
Her teaching position at Woodland High School had been eliminated after her first year as an educator and she applied to Anzar on a “whim” after reading about its signature Grad Ex program. When she interviewed for the job, and students were on the interview panel, she realized the San Juan Bautista school stood out in yet another way.
“That was really inspiring to me,” Crawley said of the interview process.
She took the role and spent the past five-plus years as a government teacher who has gradually taken on more administrative responsibilities. This fall, she’ll take her biggest leap yet when she starts as principal of the school with just over 300 students and 19 teachers.
“So Anzar is such a gem,” Crawley said in a recent interview. “I keep using that word but it’s the perfect word. I don’t think you realize how awesome Anzar is until you’re in it. The Grad Ex program – I wish I had been able to go to a school like Anzar. Because we are such a small school, every teacher basically knows every student.”
Graduation Exhibitions are perhaps the most unique aspect of Anzar. The program has students taking on “complex issue-based projects that include an extensive research paper, an oral presentation, and a question/answer session,” according to the school website. A major goal of the program is to give students training in real-world situations with deeper analyses than traditional classroom projects.
It has been a staple at Anzar through its evolution under longtime Principal Charlene McKowen, who is retiring after 20 years in the head job – she was the school’s first principal – and a quarter century at the school in total.
Crawley said McKowen has shown faith in her from the start when she “took a risk on me” as a young teacher and then handed off more and more administrative responsibilities over time. It’s part of the reason Crawley is ready for a relatively seamless transition going into the 2019-20 school year.
“I have so much respect for her,” Crawley said. “I honor her and her legacy, and I just hope to make her proud.”
Like McKowen before her, Crawley has the perspective of being a teacher on campus before taking on the principal job. She said she will view part of her new role as a coach for the teaching staff to “be the best they can be.”
“The staff is incredible,” Crawley said. “I feel so lucky and honored to work with them. They are so hardworking and really dedicated to what they teach and their students and the success of Anzar.”
Needless to say, Crawley will put her own signature on the school over time.
She said she would like to see improved communication with all stakeholders such as students, staff, parents, the district and community.
“We can do a better job of communicating what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it,” she said.
When it comes to outcomes, Crawley doesn’t believe state test scores paint the whole picture for Anzar, since students take the exams only in 11th grade, usually one week per content area. Nevertheless, that’s how the state monitors schools, and she wants Anzar to do a better job on those tests. She plans to focus on student intervention especially in areas like math, reading and writing.
“The scores are not where we want them to be,” she said.
Overall, Crawley described herself as collaborative.
“Students have such big voices and big ideas,” she said. “I want to bring that out in them. Our teachers are so inspiring. They have such great ideas. I want to encourage them to embrace some of those ideas.”
Editor’s note: San Benito Live Editor Kollin Kosmicki, who authored this story, is head football coach at Anzar High School.