Susana was sure she attended our Lancers for homecoming games. Congratulations Susana, we are proud of you!
Are you a Denver native?
Yes, I was born in Southwest Denver. My parents are from Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, but I was born and raised in Denver.
Tell us about your family. Do you have Siblings?
I have one older brother. He didn’t go to Lincoln– he went to Catholic school. I always wanted to go to Lincoln HS.
What year did you graduate from Lincoln?
I graduated from Lincoln about a million years ago- in 1984. Lincoln was a pretty integrated school at the time. It was a mixture of White, Latinx and Asian students when I attended high school.
What experiences from Lincoln stick with you to this day?
I feel like I got a great education at Lincoln. I got a scholarship to go to DU and I was really worried that I wouldn’t be as well prepared as many of the other students, but truthfully, my teachers were really helpful. I felt academically prepared and was able to successfully compete with the private school students at DU. I think that my teachers helped me understand that by putting in the effort, you can be successful and achieve your goals.
Did you participate in any activities while at Lincoln? How did they help you grow as a student?
I was very active in Speech and Drama and to this day, the skills I learned in these activities have helped me. I learned how to speak in front of a large audience and not show my nervousness. One of the best pieces of advice I got is that the audience doesn’t have the script– in other words, they don’t know what you are supposed to say, so be brave about what you say, even if it isn’t perfect.
What was your post-secondary experience like? Where did you go to school after Lincoln?
I attended the University of Denver on a scholarship. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. DU was a big transition. I didn’t struggle academically but I didn’t always feel like I fit in. I wish that I had joined more clubs or activities, because I think that would have helped me a lot.
What is your current job or career? How long have you been there? Explain a bit what you do.
I am the Superintendent of DPS– and wow, who would have thought that a kid from Southwest Denver could do that? Not me, for sure! I have been a teacher, an AP, a principal, a director, Chief Academic Officer, Chief Schools Officer and now Superintendent for the past 2 years. I oversee all the operations and academics for our district. We have over 15,000 full and part time employees, a 1.4 Billion dollar budget and serve 93,000 students! I love what I do. I just recently accepted a position as the Deputy Superintendent of Schools in Dallas, and for the first time, will be moving away from Denver. I’m nervous, excited and ready for a change, all wrapped up together!
At what age did you know you wanted to follow the path that you are on?
When I was a junior in college, I started thinking about what I wanted to do after graduation. I had a work study job in the English department and one afternoon, I had some down time and I was reading a magazine the English department published. The whole issue was dedicated to Chicano literature. I had never seen anything like that before. It was the first time I saw anything in writing that used “Spanglish,” that had stories and poems about people who looked and sounded like me and my family. I was 20 at the time and had been in school for 16 years and had never once seen myself in the curriculum or felt validated as being worthy of writing about.
It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. My whole life, people had told me that education was the way out of my neighborhood, which was a negative and confusing message. I didn’t want kids like me to think the only way to be successful was to leave your family and culture behind, but actually, education can make you a better version of yourself. I wanted to help ensure that kids didn’t have to wait 16 years to accidentally find out about their culture in school. In my 31 years in education, I am really proud that I have supported the use of native language instruction in Spanish; classes like Ethnic Studies, Chicano/a and African American Literature and History and supports for teachers to learn equity strategies for their classrooms.
What advice would you give the current high school student?
Don’t be afraid to shoot for your dreams. Apply to the best school you can and make sure that you ask for help when you need it. Get involved in activities and make friends, even when it means being out of your comfort zone. You never know where you will land! You could be superintendent of schools before you know it!
Our vision is to develop leaders for college, career, and our community. For our students to meet these expectations they will be confident, responsible, respectful, and persevere in their pursuit of success.
Our mission is to raise expectations, open doors, and provide equitable access to rigorous learning and personalized support so that every student has the opportunity to earn an Industry Certificate, Associate’s Degree or up to sixty college credits, and to graduate ready for college, career, and life.