Two new principals join the LAPS team

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By Kirsten Laskey

Jill Gonzales and Pam Miller followed different paths in becoming educators but they converged when they became principals at the Los Alamos Public Schools.

Gonzales, the new principal at Piñon Elementary School, and Miller, the principal at Barranca Elementary School, received their new positions Thursday.

Miller followed a straight road to become a teacher.

Gonzales, however, took a detour before arriving at her decision to teach others.

Both said they are looking forward to beginning their new responsibilities.

Both are new to working in the district although Gonzales has children enrolled in LAPS schools and has served on the district parent committee and the Youth Summit Taskforce.

Previously, she worked as a high school teacher, activities director and educational advisor in Redondo Beach Calif. She was the assistant principal at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif.

Teaching wasn’t her first career. Gonzales said she studied political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and moved to Washington, D.C., to work for a nonprofit lobby.

When it closed, she took some time to determine where her passion lies. Gonzales said she realized she loved being around kids, which opened her eyes to education.

“I love the different roles that I’ve served,” she said. “Each has provided a different perspective … a 360 degree perspective in serving education.”

Miller, it seems, was fated to become an educator.

“I’ve been in education for more than 35 years,” she said.

Her father, grandfather, grandmother and other family members all were educators. Miller said she got her start as an instructor at an early age helping out at Sunday school classes and working as a counselor at a church camp.

Before LAPS, Miller worked for the past four years as the kindergarten through eighth grade principal at McCurdy School in Española. She is a nationally certified teacher and earned the “Teacher of the Year” award for an economics program she taught in Indiana.

Superintendent Gene Schmidt said he was thrilled with the new principals.

“In addition to Jill and Pam, we look to the whole new generation working their way into the school system,” he said. “Each one has special gifts that we will able to lift our district even higher. Watch for these new leaders in the community.”

As the new school year approaches, Miller and Gonzales said they are always available to serve teachers, parents and students.

“I’m there for them … my leadership is one of being a facilitator and a catalyst,” Gonzales said.

Miller added: “I’m there – my door is always open.”

She said she wants to get to know everyone and work behind the scenes to make teachers’ job easier.

She added throughout her career, the bobcat has always been the school mascot. So walking into Barranca Elementary, which is represented by the bobcat, Miller said she felt like she was home.