National Hispanic American Heritage Month is celebrated annually from September 15 through October 15 and highlights the Hispanic community’s histories, cultures and contributions to the areas of science, fine arts, technology, and many others. Throughout the 30-day period, San Angelo ISD honors the unique diversity and contributions of Hispanic and Latino culture, specifically within the walls of our campuses and touching the hearts and minds of our students.
To kick off our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, SAISD is proud to feature one of our own outstanding leaders, Lincoln Middle School principal and Region 15 Secondary Principal of the Year, Mr. Joe Gandar and his inspiring story of resilience. Principal Gandar’s experiences throughout his life have shaped the way he has established a family-oriented, positive culture and vision of love, encouragement, and empowerment on his campus among both his student body and staff. He encourages authenticity of his student and staff experiences in order to more meaningfully connect with students to help them reach their full potential.
Mr. Gandar’s mission to love, encourage and empower students is rooted deeply in his own personal experiences and a desire to be there for his students and staff, much in the way a few caring educators impacted his own life. At the tender age of 15, Mr. Gandar experienced some unique hardships and left high school while taking on the role of teenage parent. It was in that time period that a special relationship began where a counselor at his school, Mr. Solis, repeatedly visited the young Mr. Gandar, recognizing his potential and encouraging him to return to school and a path toward fulfilling his hopes and dreams. Mr. Gandar points to Mr. Solis’s compassion and commitment to his students as pivotal to leading him back to school, and inspiring him to pursue the future he has made for himself today- where he is that dedicated educator, and now principal, who does not give up on his students. Much like Mr. Solis, Principal Gandar encourages his students to be resilient and overcome whatever obstacles might seem like roadblocks.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to make a difference in the lives of all of my students. The northside really reminds me of home. Many of my kids face the same adversities that I faced growing up. I want my kids to realize that someone can look like them, grow up like them, and talk like them and still be successful,” said Principal Gandar. “The Hispanic culture is built around love, and that is one reason why love is the foundation of our mission. I love ALL of my kids, regardless of their ethnicity. In reality, all northside kids face some sort of adversity, and it’s my duty to change the mindset of our students so they can prove themselves, in addition to proving any naysayers wrong. Our vision is ‘Striving for Greatness’, and greatness is what I want my students to chase.”
Under Principal Gandar’s leadership, Lincoln Middle School also promotes equity through championing bilingualism and biculturalism every day. Lincoln’s student population, like many campuses in SAISD, skews heavily Hispanic including some students from predominantly Spanish-speaking families. Mr. Gandar promotes a welcoming atmosphere where all students and staff are embraced as a valuable part of the school community, no matter their differences, whether it be culture or languages spoken or others.
Events and activities in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month will take place on many of our campuses to highlight the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the nation and the local community. To stay up-to-date on San Angelo ISD, please visit the SAISD website at www.saisd.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.