Celebrity is not something usually associated with educators. But Lisa Santos Tabarez’s years of commitment have earned her more than just merely “15 minutes of fame,” and she has been recognized by no less a distinguished personage than that of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in recognition of her efforts to improve education in the Imperial Valley.
Unassuming, but with a personality that brightens up any room, Tabarez is, above all else, passionate about education. Born and raised in Brawley and a graduate of Brawley Union High School, she has had an unusual journey to her current position as Superintendent of Imperial Unified Schools. Even though she has worked in several educational positions in the Valley, her path was not necessarily her intended path. Looking back, Tabarez attributes her success to the fact that she believes each day provides an opportunity to learn something new. It is obvious that her personal career path parallels her educational philosophy — long-term success comes one day at a time.
“I had no plans to go to college after high school,” she says. “In fact, I was enrolled at a technical school. My mother was a teacher’s aid and my dad had a B.A., but college just did not seem ‘doable.’ At some point my school counselor found this out, called me into her office and told me, ‘You are going to a four year university.’ ”
“I decided to trust her,” continues Tabarez. “I went to the University of Redlands and received a degree in communications and creative writing.”
The connection between educators and students, between adults and youth, cannot be underestimated, she emphasizes. “I thought my path was going to be different. One person, my guidance counselor, made the difference. Because of this, education has a special meaning for me.”
“Everyday I wake up and say, ‘Really! Is this really the path I followed?’ ”
Read more about Lisa Santos Tabarez in the May/June 2012 edition of Valley Women Magazine in print or our online E-Edition.
Lisa Santos Tabarez: Excelling to the Top
Lisa Santos Tabarez (June 19, 2012)