May 2020 - Gabriela Ruiz

Colorado Association of Latino/a Administrators and Superintendents

May 2020

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 Gabriela Ruiz, Assistant Principal, John H. Amesse Elementary School.

Career Highlights & Education

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I started my career in education right out of high school, 18 years ago, in Southern California. While in college I served as a volunteer at my hometown elementary, a teacher assistant, and also as an in-home tutor.  I received my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education making me the first in the family to attend and graduate college; additionally, I’m also the only one in my family to earn a Master’s degree. I have served diverse student populations ranging from ECE to high school, as a teacher, small group instruction coordinator, and assistant principal. The majority of my work has been in turnaround settings where I have collaborated with teams to bring students from underperforming levels to grade level, and schools from red to green and blue in the Colorado School Performance Framework (SPF). Currently, I am the assistant principal at John H Amesse Elementary in the Denver Public Schools.

Growing up, life wasn’t easy, but my parents taught me to be thankful for what we had (our health, food, and a roof over our heads), so in my eyes we were almost rich. Three families plus my grandparents lived in a duplex house. My dad converted the garage into a third house so that the 14 people who lived there had a bit more space. There were a lot of us, but that was our norm, and we (cousins and siblings) all grew up very close. 

Being the oldest I always felt a sense of responsibility to be a good role model, to do the right thing, to lead my cousins and siblings “por el buen camino,” as my grandma would say.  In high school I kept myself busy with clubs, soccer, and cross country, and at home I was responsible for feeding my siblings and making sure they were safe and completed their homework. Although my parents didn’t attend school past the 7th grade, they both valued education and pushed us to always do our best in school. They couldn’t help me with my homework and if I was ever struggling with an assignment, I would get on my bunk bed and cry. I always wanted to learn and know everything so that my brother and sister didn’t have to go through the same struggles and could always count on me for homework support. This is where my love for learning and helping others learn started. 

What is exciting about my job?
It excites me to make a difference in students' lives as well as seeing their faces glow when they finally understand a new concept. It brings joy to my heart when I see students caring for each other. I enjoy collaborating with others to work on advocating for an equitable education for all students. I appreciate the daily challenges that push me to be a more effective leader for all stakeholders. It’s exciting to be part of teams where everyone has a voice and together we make positive changes for our students. I enjoy the relationships I get to build with my students, families, and staff. 

Words from a consejero/a:
Lead with integrity, and as Don Miguel Ruiz says “When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace” (The Four Agreements).

Advice you would give a new superintendent or school leader:
Don’t lose sight of what you stand for! Never forget why you chose to serve others and always remember that before being a student, a teacher, or a parent, we are all humans. Listen to everyone’s voice, and build genuine relationships.

If you catch me outside the office, you’ll find . . .
Me with my boys (husband and 12 year old son); they bring balance to my life. We enjoy being outdoors, hiking, biking, walking our 4 dogs, or relaxing at home playing board games, reading a book or watching our new favorite show. When I’m not with “my boys,”  I’m usually out for a run or at yoga class. 

How does CO-ALAS add value?
CO-ALAS has allowed me to be part of an inspirational group of leaders who I can connect with both professionally and culturally, giving me a sense of belonging. I have networked with leaders from various districts and I’m humble to have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from so many talented leaders. Some of the people I admire most, are part of CO-ALAS and have become friends and a support group. 

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