Gina Chaffin is in her second year leading Santa Cruz Elementary School and 18th in education. Her first 11 years were spent teaching second, fourth, fifth and sixth grades, and she was an assistant principal five years before taking over for the retiring John Flores as principal of Santa Cruz.
“I started out as an art major in college,” Chaffin said. “I had a professor who taught me that I could learn to do anything. I felt I had a calling to educate others at that point.”
Chaffin was born and raised in the Phoenix area and received her bachelor’s in elementary education from Northern Arizona University, and her master’s in educational administration and supervision from Arizona State University.
She began her educational career in Michigan working for the Michigan State University Cooperative Extension, providing students with information to help job performance, raise their family and build their communities.
“I worked with students ages 5 to 19 in a variety of settings,” Chaffin said.
Chaffin brings that knowledge and perspective to her work as principal of Santa Cruz.
“I believe the most effective strategy for being an educational leader is to share the leadership,” Chaffin said. “It is vital to get input from all stakeholders when making decisions. When everyone feels as though they’ve had a voice, they will be more supportive of change and improvement.”
Chaffin’s approach is working. Santa Cruz went from a C school with 111 points on the Arizona Department of Education Report Card to a B grade, improving by 18 points, after Chaffin’s first year at the school.
“We’re very proud of the progress at Santa Cruz, and Gina’s leadership was a big part of the improvement along with the great staff at Santa Cruz; it was a real group effort,” Superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “We are grateful to have Gina.”
Connecting with children and making a difference in their lives is the most rewarding part of working in education for Chaffin.
And creating a safe environment his her top priority: “I hope the most important thing Santa Cruz students have every day is a feeling of safety. Not just physical safety but safety in taking risks when learning. It is when we feel safe and are able to take risks that we learn the most.”***ADVERTISEMENT***
Santa Cruz Elementary School
Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education (Northern Arizona University), master’s in educational administration and supervision (Arizona State University)
Family: Daughter, 6-year-old grandson
Hobbies: Hiking, kayaking, camping, reading and yoga
Most memorable moment as an elementary school student: When my seventh grade teacher told me I should be a writer and suggested I publish a story I had written. (That is still one of my goals, to be a published author.)
Most interesting thing a student has been called to the principal’s office for: Students get called to the office every morning so they can howl like coyotes on the morning announcements. They love it!
Favorite subject: My favorite subject as a student was art. As a teacher, it was math. I struggled with math when I was in school. It became my favorite subject to teach because I can relate to the kids are struggling with it as I did.
Actress who would play you in a movie about your life: Sandra Bullock
Three people with whom you’d most like to dine: Harriet Tubman, Anne Frank and Helen Keller