Ericsson’s New Principal Is From The Neighborhood

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Juanita Terronez grew up in Laredo, Texas right on the border with Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The majority of the population was Spanish speaking but Terronez mentioned it was difficult adjusting to an English-only elementary school. “I didn’t understand directions, I didn’t understand how to read and write. I can honestly say it wasn’t until the third grade that things clicked for me,” she said.

Terronez is one of nine children and only one of two girls. When the family moved to the Quad Cities, she had to work in the fields with the migrant families. “The whole family did migrant work back in 1972,” she said.

The family went back to Texas and only her sister lives in the area. Before she became a teacher, she worked a telephone company for 14 years and then felt called to something else, teaching. Terronez did most of her student teaching at Ericsson Elementary school and also taught the migrant workers in Macomb.

Two teachers inspired Terronez to become a teacher. Her fifth grade teacher said that Terronez would make a great teacher and her aunt, Socorro Cabasos. “I really liked school. I was hardly absent, earned good grades, did well, and pretended that I was a role model,” Terronez said.

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In 1992 she began teaching at Ericsson, which was very demanding. Terronez had a split fourth/fifth grade class. “Teaching’s a very demanding profession. Over 20 kids, they want your attention, they all need attention. They don’t teach that in college,” she said. “I cried a lot that first year, I thought I wasn’t doing a good job. My colleagues told me to learn to prioritize.”

Terronez mentioned that in the Mexican culture, teaching is seen as a calling. “You need to be called, you have to have a calling for it. If your heart isn’t in it, we tell the student teacher’s, don’t be a teacher. It’s wonderful and a lot of work. The kids don’t consider it a job and it isn’t. A job isn’t a job when you look forward to it,” she said.

After 15 years of teaching, Terronez was named principal at Ericsson. She has met with the retiring principal Pat Alexander just about every day lately planning things for next year. “I hope that I do what’s best. I’m excited, nervous,” she said on her new appointment as principal. “I keep telling myself that I have a great staff, great community, parents that totally support you, respectful children, it’s the best kept secret in Moline. It’s a sort of cultural respect to teachers,” she said.

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After being named principal, she was advised to move out of the West End in Moline in case there was ever a problem. “I thought about it but I really don’t feel like moving. My whole time living here, I can count on one hand, students coming to my door not selling stuff. Maybe the way that I know them, if they have a complaint, they know I can’t do it at home. I don’t think I’ll be moving. A maestro, it’s an honor. There’s too much respect for the profession. There’s too much respect for the home life,” she said.

For fun she likes to go to the gym and workout. She takes Zumba classes and does tae-cardio, a form of kickboxing. Terronez says that she’s a quiet person, likes to read, relax in her own backyard. She has a flower garden and enjoys nature.

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Terronez also wanted everyone to know that while she was interviewing she wanted to be the best fit for the school. “I want vocal parents; I’m here to speak their language. I want to be their voice in the community, La voz de la gente de los padres, de sus hijos. (The voice of the people of the parents, of their children),” she said.

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