Danira Ortiz's Experience in the PRN

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It was the first week of school of my 7th school year as a classroom teacher in NYC, when my principal approached me to be a mentor for a new teacher. My first reaction was, no, because I felt that with work and being a wife and mom it’d be too much. That’s when she pointed out that I did it naturally anyway. I was the type of teacher that always offered help to new teachers, that was willing to share my ideas and provide feedback to theirs. I always had an open-door policy. The only difference would be that I’d have to keep records of meeting the requirements and that I’d get paid, so I agreed. I loved it!! Once I realized that I was having an impact not only on my own 25 students, but on 50, I was hooked. That’s when I decided to pursue an admin degree. 

Danira and her family.

Danira and her family.

The following summer, my family and I moved to RI. I landed a job in Central Falls where I heard about their partnership with the PRN. I was intrigued immediately and attracted to their hands-on approach. I was blessed to be awarded the Fellowship in 2016. I graduated from the PRN in June 2017. 

Going through the program while mentoring the substitute that was in the classroom that I was still responsible for on paper, while still being a wife and mom, was the most challenging year of my life! However, it was also truly the most rewarding.  What I learned during the program, through the materials we read and the sessions when we met, impacted not only my leading capacity but my life in general. I uncovered my own biases and learned how to respectfully help others uncover theirs, among many other skills that helped me become a better human being in general.  I was afraid that the amount of time the program and the work it entailed took me away from my family would be too much, but in reality, it made the time I did have with them so much more valuable as I was becoming a better version of myself. 

My fondest memory of going through the PRN is the relationship I developed with my advisor, Kirsten. Maybe it’s the fact that I was raised as a single child so I was used to relating more to adults in my life than peers or maybe it was just the fact that I had the best advisor ever!! Either way, Kirsten became integral in my journey. She believed I could lead before I was certain myself. Trust me, she never lowered the expectations for me; quite the contrary, but she did nurture me in my caterpillar stage until I believed that I could and was able to spread my own wings. 

My biggest take away as a leader is to always be true to myself and to my core beliefs about what is right for kids and staff members. That it is not to say that these beliefs I hold may not change and grow based on experiences and where all the latest research and literature points to about what builds the unlimited potential of students. What won’t change is sticking to what I believe is right in the face of injustice as the path that I set for myself each and every day that I lead. 

The only advice I would give to those who are interested in joining is, JOIN!!!  While it will probably be one of the most difficult experiences in your life, it will also be the most enriching and rewarding.

Curious? What might your PRN leadership journey look like in the near future?

Click here to find out more about the PRN