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Janet Gutierrez, Cultivated in Alisal

Janet Gutierrez

Assistant Principal, Monte Bella Elementary

 Janet Gutierrez

Photo credit: Kenneth Cho

On her first day of classes for sixth grade, Janet Gutierrez stood in line before entering Mr. Martin Cisneros class. It was her second and last year at Cesar Chavez Elementary. She remembers him standing outside the classroom door in his suit. She felt that her new teacher was setting a tone of respect and high expectations, as if he was saying “I’m your teacher and you’re going to come here to work.”

“It worked,” Ms. Gutierrez said.  “We instantly had this respect for him. Throughout the course of the year he’d said ‘You guys are going to middle school and 10 years from now, where do you see yourself? What do you see yourself doing?”

And in one of those classes, Ms. Gutierrez distinctly remembers writing “I want to be a principal.”

With that knowledge in her heart, she attended California State University Stanislaus, then Hartnell College and then Cal State University Monterey Bay, where she earned her bachelor’s degree and her teaching credential. In 2008 she began working as a substitute teacher both at Alisal Union and Pajaro Valley Unified. Until Ms. Gutierrez became a permanent in 2011, she was a long-term substitute teacher mostly at Fremont and Creekside, but she also worked as a substitute teacher at Loya, Bardin, and Steinbeck.

“A lot of teachers I work with now worked at Fremont. So when I came (to Monte Bella) I saw all these familiar faces. It was really nice to have that connection already.”

Ms. Gutierrez became a permanent employee of the Alisal Union School District as a dual immersion teacher at Frank Paul. In 2012 she was transferred to Monte Bella Elementary as a second grade bilingual teacher. After earning her administrator credential, she became assistant principal at Loma Vista in the Salinas City Elementary School District. A year later, she returned for the 2015-16 to Monte Bella as assistant principal, where she’s been ever since.

When she reflects on her reasons for wanting to become an educator, she goes back to sixth grade, when Mr. Cisneros urged his students to envision their future.

“He would always ask us ‘Where do you see yourself ten years from now?’ It was a theme for him. ‘The choices you’re making today are going to affect you ten years from now as well.’

...I’m happy that I’m here. It feels right to me.... All these extra initiatives we’re doing for our kids the vision of cultivating the whole child -- I love that vision, I stand for that vision. To me, it makes more sense to be here. Even the kids who are here reflect who I am, and I want the best for them.”

Note: This is the second installment of "Cultivated in Alisal: Homegrown Heroes," a first attempt at documenting and celebrating the history of Alisal Union School District. For more information and other profiles,  click here. To submit your name to be profiled, click here.