A new year, a new principal: Getting to know Julie Parks

Julie+Parks%2C+the+new+principal+of+Miramonte%2C+presents+a+bright+smile%2C+and+the+essential+cup+of+coffee%2C+in+her+new+office.

Julie Parks, the new principal of Miramonte, presents a bright smile, and the essential cup of coffee, in her new office.

Sarah Rockwood, Editor-in-Chief

As yet another new year commences, Miramonte will welcome more than just  a new class of freshman, but a new principal as well.  While many students will miss seeing Mr. Clark’s face in the hallways, Julie Parks, a fellow Lamorindian graduate, has plenty to offer to Miramonte.  But as most students are unfamiliar with our new principal, Mirador sat down with her to learn more of what she’s all about.

Q: What are you most excited about in coming to Miramonte?

A:   I feel like I’m coming home because I grew up in Lafayette and went to Acalanes. Looking around and seeing the kids and meeting the parents, I feel like you guys look like and act like my friends and I did when we were in high school.  I was on Lamorinda soccer and I did National Charity League. I was the recipient of an excellent education here and to come back and to help in that work is very exciting for me.

Q: What is your favorite teaching memory?

A: My first teaching job I was in Teach for America, which is kind of like Peace Corps for teachers.   So I went to UCLA for my undergrad and I was a science major so I thought was going to do marine ecology research because I was working in a marine ecology lab with algae of all things and I did research scuba diving.  But it didn’t feel like enough.  I wanted to do something where I get to see something different and I wanted to give back to the community.  So I came across Teach for America and it seemed like a perfect fit. So my first year of teaching I was in New York and I was 22 years old and I was in a middle school in the middle of the Bronx.  It was a complete culture shock and different from anything I’d ever been in . It wasn’t until I went through that that I knew I really wanted to be a teacher.

Q:  How did this lead to becoming a principal?

A: One thing led to another, so after I left New York I moved back to California and connected with my old high school boyfriend, who’s now my husband, and I started teaching out in Bay Point, which is in West Pittsburgh.  It was a school that was really struggling, a very under served community, and I was perfectly suited for it because of what I had done.  It was like a magical school because the teaching staff was so committed to working with the kids. I started taking on increasing leadership roles and I pursued my second masters degree in educational leadership and decided I wanted to go into administration.  My first administrative job was as a vice principal at Mt Diablo High School.

Q:  In coming to Miramonte, do you foresee any big challenges or changes?

A:  What I see so far is that this is a well oiled machine and that people here are very passionate about what they do.  I’ve had many parents reaching out to me and welcoming me to the community – I felt very embraced.  Initially I feel like I have this luxury of being able to spend some time getting to know everybody.  My big thing for this year is building relationships – getting to know the kids, getting to know the staff, kind of finding out how everything works, and continuing to build our iMats program. And just building capacity, building our teachers and our students. There’s a lot of potential out there.

Q: Favorite subject?

A:  I was a science major, so biology or biological science.

Q: Favorite quote?

A: I can’t remember exactly the words but in essence it’s about how knowledge is not filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire. I think we sometimes inadvertently with the best of intentions feel like we have to give kids all this information, but it’s not about having all this stuff in your head because that floats out. What education and knowledge building is about is how we can ignite that flame so that this individual with all that potential can take it to the next step.

Q: Favorite book?

A: I’ll tell you, I’m really into the Game of Throne books. The show and the books are amazing. Q: Favorite food? A: I really love pizza.  I’ve had to have pizza moratoriums in the Parks’ family house because we should not be having pizza twice week.

Q:  Favorite place to get pizza?

A: Zachary’s.

Q: Peet’s or Starbucks?

A: Starbucks.

Q: Favorite drink?

A: Usually I get a grande coffee in a venti cup so there is enough room for as much cream as I want to put in and you don’t have to pay the venti price.  I worked at Starbucks in college.  The hard thing about working in a coffee shop is that you go home and you smell and it gets into your hair.

Q: What would you name your autobiography?

A: Falling in the Pond  because my book would start off with this story. When I lived in New work, I lived in Harlem, right above the pond. I was having one of those days where it was kind of hard to be here across the country from my family. There’s a big pond there called the Harlem mirror. I had my phone in one hand and my nice camera in the other hand because I wanted to take some nice pictures. I was talking to my friend on the phone and I went to go sit on a rock and my hands were full, and I was like ‘I guess I’m really close so I’ll just drop onto my bottom.’  It turns out, you can’t really do that, so I dropped and started rolling and I rolled backwards and upside down.  I kept my camera above water, phone gone, at the bottom of the pond. I look around, and it’s New York, so no one was particularly paying attention to the fact that there was this woman in the pond.  So my first though was make it look like I meant to be here. I was dripping wet and had to walk three blocks back to my house.  And there was this man on the bench and I just look at him and said “I just fell in the pond” and he’s like “You fell in the pond?”  I felt like that perfectly captured the feeling of all this stuff happening then.

Q: If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

A: Machu Picchu.

Q: Anything you want to say to incoming students?

A: Talk to the adults here on campus.  Be kind, be kind one another, be kind to yourself. Life is hard enough.  Give yourself a break every once in a while.  You can’t do it all.  That was defnitely a lesson I wish I learned earlier