October 2018 - Gina Yacovetta Riva

Colorado Association of Latino/a Administrators and Superintendents

October 2018

Welcome to the CO ALAS Membership Spotlight.  Each month we introduce you to one of our many CO ALAS members. Let’s see what they are doing and what’s on their mind!

This month we are featuring Gina Rivas, Principal at Arvada High School, Jefferson County School District.

Career Highlights & Education
I have Bachelor’s of Arts in Early Childhood Education and Psychology from Metropolitan State University.  My Master’s Degree is in Counseling and Administrative License from the University of Phoenix. I was a kindergarten teacher at a high-risk school, served as a counselor for five years, Assistant Principal for 9 years and Principal for the last 10 years, 6 in elementary and the last 4 in high school. Last year, I received the “Image of the Year” award from the Arvada Chamber of Commerce for making improvements to our school. In addition, I was nominated for the ALAS Principal of the Year award in 2018 by our state affiliate, CO-ALAS. Finally, I was a Counselor at Chatfield High School the day of the Columbine school shooting. I spent that day, and several of the next days, counseling the grief-stricken families.  It was a horrific and unforgettable experience, but I am grateful that I was able to provide a small degree of counseling and comfort to the victims’ families.  The experience also made me very aware of safety issues and I carry those lessons forward wherever I go.

What is exciting about my job?
Everything!  I love my job, making a difference for students and creating opportunities for all students.  I enjoy providing programs for culinary arts, construction trades, and Pathways2teaching for our students of color.  Additionally, I created a resource room at our school for students and their families that includes food, supplies, toiletries, clothes, bikes and bus passes, etc.

Words from a consejero/a.
Build trusting relationships with students, teachers and parents.  Create a culture that empowers all by showing respect and kindness.  Have high expectations for both students and teachers, as they will rise to achieve them.  Always seek to understand every situation. Trust your subordinates, and allow them to be leaders. Share the power; when you do, you empower your subordinates.  This will communicate trust and confidence in them from you.  Offer praise when deserved and criticism when required, but never be punitive; always remember that fundamentally you are also a teacher.

Advice you would give a new superintendent or school leader? 
As I have grown as an administrator, I have come to realize that students need more than mere recognition; they must be valued as well as validated.  This is true of all children, but in particular, students of color; immigrant and refugee children whose first language is not  English, as well as our Latino students, both immigrant and native born, in many cases exist on the fringes of this society. DACA students pose a unique challenge.  It remains to be seen if our elected leaders will rule in their favor but we cannot remain idle while they decide.  We must teach our children their history; they cannot know where they are going unless they know where they have been.  When they take pride in their heritage and culture, they will feel like they are part of the team.  Our acceptance of this fact will communicate to them that they are just as good as anyone else is, not better, but just as good and that they are, like all children,  capable of learning and excelling. There has been a dramatic shift in today’s demographics that present new challenges for educators; we must accept these challenges and face them head on, because in spite of our best efforts, some students continue to fall through the cracks.  

If you catch me outside the office, you’ll find . . .
The older I get, the more I value time spent with family.  My mother was one of thirteen children so I have many cousins, nieces and nephews.  Family gatherings for us resemble events rather than gatherings.  I feel truly blessed to be part of a large, loving family.  I am an avid reader and love to sit in my mountain cabin reading as well as discussing, dissecting and commenting on my book club’s latest book.  I love to travel and recently completed a personal goal of visiting all fifty states when I toured Alaska earlier this year.

How does CO-ALAS add value?
There is much to be said for networking, sharing support, and learning from others. Acquiring new knowledge can be a direct benefit of networking and belonging to an organization such as CO-ALAS. Moreover, CO-ALAS provides a comfort zone for like minded individuals who wish to grow as educators and by validating and reinforcing those best practices we all seek.

CO-ALAS is a professional education association that advocates for the continued development and placement of Latino/Latina administrators who are committed to quality public education for all students.


PO Box 13109
Denver, CO 80201