Stacie Almaraz La Joya Community High School

Stacie Almaraz, the new principal of La Joya Community High School, returned to the Tolleson Union High School District from a neighboring one because of its emphasis on staff and student success, as well as Superintendent Nora Gutierrez’s leadership.

Longtime educator Stacie Almaraz was recently named principal at La Joya Community High School, a place she likes to call home.

While she’s new to her position at La Joya, Almaraz, who replaced John Ewing on July 1, is no stranger to the Avondale campus.

“I started here back in 2005. I was hired as a PE (physical education) and health teacher,” she said.

Almaraz, most recently the assistant principal of athletics and registration at a neighboring district, said she returned to the Tolleson Union High School District (TUHSD) because of its emphasis on staff and student success, as well as Superintendent Nora Gutierrez’s leadership.

“I absolutely love the direction of the district. Ms. Gutierrez is a very strong female role model. I had a chance to work with Ms. Guiterrez early on, and I loved the way she presented herself and the district; the way she was moving toward academic success for kids,” Almaraz said. “I had the opportunity to come back and work for her and the district, and I jumped at the chance.”

Almaraz said she feels blessed to work alongside the more than 100 faculty and staff members at La Joya.

“They were amazing when I was here in 2005, and they’re amazing,” she said. “They are ‘kid-first’ and that is truly what we want to focus on: academic success and getting our kids to a postsecondary position.”

The campus offers programs that promote those postsecondary positions, like the JAG (Jobs for Arizona Graduates) program — a class that prepares upperclassmen for postsecondary opportunities through curriculum and community service. The program, coordinated by Catherine Carcia, has won “Program of the Year” for two years in a row at TUHSD.

“I was super happy about inheriting a wonderful JAG program along with a ton of other programs on our campus. I love that Ms. Garcia is able to get these kids on a different level; think about other opportunities. I love that those kids go out and share that with others on campus and pull them in,” Almaraz said.

But there is always room for improvement, she added. Almaraz wants to focus on increasing parent involvement, she said.

“We all know that the parents are a huge help to us in pushing those kids to a postsecondary, so I always want to make sure that we keep them involved and push our kids to push themselves to get to a higher education,” she added.

Almaraz, a native Arizonan, grew up in Glendale. She received her master’s degree in educational leadership at North Arizona University. Her teaching career took off in 2001 with the Peoria Elementary School District.