Former MCJH Gator and Army veteran, Dr. David Paz, focuses on building relationships and solid programs at Mayde Creek Junior High.
KATY MAGAZINE | November 2017
By Leigh Ann Mitchell and Ashley Lancaster
Photography by Christi Hartwell
Dr. David Paz is a one-of-a-kind principal at Mayde Creek Junior High. A former Gator himself, he brings a sense of connection to the campus that is hard to find elsewhere. We caught up with Dr. Paz and his campus after Hurricane Harvey to find out how the Gators came back better than ever.
Dr. Paz has inspired students and teachers by building relationships within the Mayde Creek Junior High family. “Building relationships is the key to success in education,” states Dr. Paz. “All stakeholders, staff and students, will do their very best if they know you care about them.”
A Journey in Education
As a student, things weren’t always easy for Dr. Paz and math was especially challenging. Now, as a principal, he often refers to his own story and reminds students to never give up on their dreams.
Since he felt he wasn’t capable of attending a traditional college, he enrolled in the Art Institute of Houston after high school graduation in 1992. Dr. Paz was also involved in a program that worked with at-risk youth. After taking on this opportunity, he found that he truly enjoyed working with students.
In 1994 Dr. Paz enlisted in the Army, which was his way of reevaluating his goals and it helped to fund his education. He often states that serving his country was the most amazing thing that could have ever happened to him. “My path to education was wrought with irony,” Dr. Paz recalls. “I struggled in math as a student, but eventually became a math teacher.”
He extended his education even further, earning a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and master’s in administration and supervision from the University of Houston. He also earned his doctorate in education administration at Texas A&M University.
In 2001, Dr. Paz started his career in education working at Bear Creek Elementary as a fourth-grade teacher. He also took on the challenge of working towards his master’s in education that same year. During this time, he began focusing how his position impacted the campus as a whole rather than just his own class. In 2005, he became a math teacher at McDonald Junior High working with sixth- and eighth-grade students. He began his career in administration in 2007 when he became an assistant principal at McMeans Junior High. In 2013, Dr. Paz was named principal of Mayde Creek Junior High.
Think Outside the Box
Dr. Paz is described as always staying two steps ahead and having several options connecting with one solid goal. This has helped him keep calm in all situations as principal. Leadership rotation is one unique activity that Dr. Paz really enjoys. He believes that everyone should be experienced in more than one campus leadership role. The more staff that understand and participate in the direction of the campus, the better the students will benefit.
“He is able to affect such change by his ability to create buy-in from all those that may be involved,” sixth-grade assistant principal, Joshua McDonald states. “It is clear that every decision he makes is structured around his strong conviction to put students first.”
“He is a trailblazer and an innovative thinker.” - Stephanie Montez, 7th grade assistant principal
Connection with students and staff are top priority with Dr. Paz. He is present throughout the school day and even at off campus events. He enjoys talking to students during passing time in the halls and during lunch in the cafeteria. He and McDonald have an annual competition where they see who can learn the most students’ names by the end of the first six weeks. As students pass from grade level to grade level, they are on a first name basis with administration; in a good way. Knowing that many parents work during the evening hours, Dr. Paz makes his presence known at games, especially at away games to add extra support for the teams.
Seventh grade assistant principal, Stephanie Montez, describes Dr. Paz as a principal who puts the needs of students first. “He always asks ‘What’s best for the kids?’ He has high expectations and is always striving to find new ways to motivate teachers and students,” Montez explains. “He is a trailblazer and an innovative thinker.”
Dr. Paz loves to motivate his staff and have fun by fully participating in events like Red Ribbon Week and other fun dates. This year he dressed up as a Pokémon Go character for Halloween and even a centenarian for the one hundredth day of school. Pouring fun into the school day motivates and helps bring happiness in Mayde Creek Junior High. “Interacting with my incredible staff and students on a daily basis is why I go to work with a smile each day,” he says.
He has implemented the programs, CHAMPS and PBIS at Mayde Creek Junior High. CHAMPS is a set of behavior expectations that teachers and staff use in the classrooms and common areas of the school. This program focuses on establishing set expectations at the beginning of each activity so that students will meet those standards. PBIS, or Positive Behavior in Schools, brings forth an environment of respect for the school, staff, fellow classmates, and more. It weaves wonderfully with the CHAMPS program.
For Dr. Paz, the best part of being a principal is the daily interaction with students. “Seeing the growth of the students from when they enter the building as sixth-graders and then leaving MCJH fully prepared for high school as eighth-graders is an incredible feeling.”
The Gators Face Hurricane Harvey
When Hurricane Harvey hit in late August, Gator families definitely felt the blow. "Everyone experienced a range of impact from losing friends who had moved away to losing most of their belongings or their home. As a result, finding that degree of “normalcy” depending on the situation has been the biggest obstacle for everyone," says Paz.
Most students were blessed to be able to return to school on their first day back, and find that sense of normalcy in the halls and classrooms of MCJH. The entire network of families, staff, and volunteers at the school stepped up to help collect supplies for families in need. "Right now the biggest need is for everyone to remember that the effects of Harvey are not over. Families will be dealing with the aftermath for a long time. Support and contributions to various endeavors from our campus and the district will always be needed. Especially as we get into the holiday season," says Paz.
Getting Back to Normal
Dr. Paz points out that his staff have always been remarkable at building long-lasting relationships with students to help them overcome any obstacle, and Harvey was no different. They stepped up to put the needs of the students first, and as a result, the students are able to enjoy life and activities as regular kids again, despite what may be going on outside.
They're annual Veteran's Day program is on November 11, and there will be several fine arts events presented by Gators in the following weeks. "Our Gators stay pretty busy as we get closer to the holidays, but that’s what makes MCJH a special place to be."
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