October is an opportunity to show your appreciation for Walla Walla Public Schools’ principals in celebration of National Principal Appreciation Month. The school district recognizes the essential role principals play in providing opportunities for students to realize their potential and follow their dreams.
This month the district will spotlight its principals as a way of thanking them for their service.
Sharpstein Elementary Principal Maria Garcia is always the first to show up in costume for dress up day, check a student for bumps and bruises following a tumble on the playground and share words of praise to a colleague for a job well done. Maria has heart for everyone and lives her life to help others. She was born in Issaquah, WA but grew up in the Golden State of California and graduated from Campolindo High School in Moraga, CA. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from the University of Minnesota before going on to the College of William and Mary to earn an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology. She also holds a Principal Certification from Gonzaga University.
She considers her grandmother on her father’s side to be her most influential educator. Maria fondly reminisces how Ruth Sather Anderson, or better known as Grammie Ruth, modeled strength, enthusiastic curiosity, depth of knowledge about the natural world and a keen sense of adventure. Maria says her grandmother’s drive to explore the world showed her she could do anything, and go anywhere, by following her dreams. In fact, Grammie Ruth summited Mt. Rainier in her 80’s!
Retired WWPS School Psychologist and Special Education Director Betty Schubert had a profound impact on Maria’s career as well. Betty served as her mentor when Maria was hired as a school psychologist in 1996. According to Maria, Betty Schubert taught her everything she knows about working with adults effectively, a key skillset she employs daily in her role as principal.
Maria is in her 26th year with Walla Walla Public Schools. She also has two years of experience as a Music Therapist at the Cleveland Music School Settlement in Cleveland, Ohio. During her tenure in Walla Walla, she has served as school psychologist at all levels and all schools except Edison, and was a District RTI and Assessment Coordinator. She is currently in her 6th year as Sharpstein’s principal.
Maria is co-chair of the Blue Zones schools committee. She has been active on the board of Waitsburg’s After School Program in the past and is a graduate of the Sherwood Trust Rural Community Leadership Program. She was driven to a career in education during her early years by the challenge and reward of doing whatever it took to find the right supports for students with disabilities. As a principal, she is inspired by the role’s unique opportunity to reduce society’s inequities and to influence the strength and cohesion of our community.
Maria loves the outdoors and is especially taken by kayaking, camping, and hiking. She also has a passion for geology, anthropology, linguistics and reading. Her husband Roger, of 30 years, is the district’s music coordinator. They have a daughter Maya, who is a Special Education teacher in Montana and a son Will, a paraeducator at Berney and instructor at Walla Walla Music Project.
Here’s what staff are saying about Maria:
Maria is the bright sunshine at our school, always smiling and positive! She is always working to find solutions to problems. We appreciate her openness to try new things and her ability to build strong relationships. Maria is an exceptional principal! - Gina Ruvalcaba, First Grade Teacher.
Mrs. Garcia is a true educator in all senses of the word. She teaches with her heart and mind. Maria always gives grace and respect to her Stomper family. We are truly blessed to have her as our Principal.
Laura Van Dyke, Assistant Secretary
Maria Garcia believes in the value of a high quality public education. She puts children first in all her decisions and is always ready to pitch in and help no matter if the project is big or small. Thank you to Maria Garcia during Principal Appreciation Month for shining as a beacon of hope for Walla Walla’s children.