In an ongoing effort to spotlight all the principals at Leader area HISD schools, we recently visited with Wainwright Elementary’s Christina Aguirre-Oliva.
What has been your career path to principal? How long have you been in HISD?
This is my 21st year in HISD. I started as a third grade teacher here at Wainwright Elementary. After 12 years I moved down the street as an administrator at Scarborough High School which was also my alma mater. After 5 years at Scarborough, I was the founding assistant principal at the Mandarin Chinese School in HISD. I became the principal here at Wainwright in August of 2013.
Wainwright is a Math and Science Magnet? How is that reflected in the curriculum?
We have three dedicated science teachers here at Wainwright who each work out of a fully functional science lab classroom. All of our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students go to science as a separate class every day. K-2nd grade go to these labs once a week as part of their ancillary schedule. We are also a departmentalized school, which means our students have separate teachers for Math and ELA (English & Language Arts). This allows for a longer Math block and students receive extended instruction besides the recommended time allotments.
This is your first year to be a dual language school. Why did you decide this was a direction you wanted to take the school in?
Honestly, my experience helping open the Mandarin Chinese School had a huge impact on my decision. Having a program that allows students to become fluent in more than one language and learn about other cultures not only increases academic performance, but develops students into learners who can really contribute to a city that represents a very diverse and global community. The benefits to students are long lasting and exceed beyond the classroom. My own daughter is in her fourth year at the Mandarin school and I see firsthand how quickly she is learning a second language and also academically how she is out performing her peers. I want that same success for my students here at Wainwright, so when the district offered the opportunity to became a dual language program for Spanish, I jumped at the chance.
You are also a Neighborhood Vanguard school. What percentage of students are classified G&T? What kind of instruction do they receive?
Currently, 7% of our students are labeled as GT. We have testing beginning soon to identify additional students. All of our teachers are GT certified and students that are identified receive specialized instruction, mostly in the form of Project Based Learning.
Are there any other programs at Wainwright that you want people to know about?
Our magnet and dual language program are our biggest programs. Currently we are accepting magnet applications for the upcoming school year. Our dual language program will expand from kindergarten to include 1st grade, which we are very excited about.
Are there any misconceptions that you think people have about Wainwright that you would like to clear up?
I think there have been concerns on whether Wainwright would continue to be a magnet school, and I’d like the community to know that that are no plans from the district to remove our magnet status.
What do you consider Wainwright’s main strengths?
I think that our main strengths are our unique scheduling that allows for three dedicated science teachers and daily, rigorous science instruction in a lab setting for our 3rd-5th graders. We also have very dedicated parents who volunteer a lot of time and materials to help our students and teachers have the very best. There has never been a time when we have asked for help and not received it. It is a wonderful thing.
What is the main thing that the community can do to support you?
We would love the community to learn more about our magnet and dual language programs so that they can inform others of what we have to offer. We also are always looking for community volunteers, especially to help read with students or work with our teachers on special projects that their classes have going on.
Where do you want Wainwright to be in 5 years?
In five years, I want Wainwright to be a school with academic distinctions in all areas that is also the neighborhood school where all parents want to send their children.