Lincoln principal honored as Principal of the Year

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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First Street Elementary School principal Rubén Ayala was honored as Placer County’s elementary school Principal of the Year at an awards dinner Monday night. “It was a surprise,” Ayala said. “I’ve been to many of these events and they’re always nice because you get to honor your colleagues.” Ayala said that the biographies of the nominees were read aloud, and when he heard, “came to the U.S. as an English learner and went through the school system,” his heart started beating faster. “I think it’s great,” Ayala said, “especially because the nomination came from a colleague.” He added that he isn’t sure who nominated him. Ayala has been with the Western Placer Unified School District for 27 years. This is his ninth year as principal of First Street School. “I can’t take all the credit,” Ayala said. “A lot of the credit goes to the staff…(I) got the award but it’s really an award for the school.” Reasons why Ayala received the award, he said, might include the school’s gain of 61 points in the statewide Academic Performance Index and his ability to connect with his students’ parents. First Street has a large Hispanic population, Ayala said, and his ability to talk with parents in Spanish and coming from a similar background makes him a good fit for the school. “It’s fantastic,” said Superintendent Scott Leaman. “Rubén opened First Street School nine years ago, and from that time, it has been a supportive environment for all students there. It’s just a great place to learn.” Leaman added that Ayala “excels in academic, personal and leadership roles” and is a very hands-on principal, always helping the students learn. “I think he’s very approachable for both staff and students, whether it’s (about something) positive or negative,” said Melissa Munno, a reading teacher at First Street. “It makes me happy to be here and proud. He’s very open to new ideas and trying new things.” Josh Ayala, 13 and Rubén Ayala’s son, attends Glen Edwards Middle School but visits First Street nearly every day after school. “I think he’s really happy,” Josh said, adding that he sees his father working very hard. “Sometimes, when I’m in his office, I have to be kicked out because of something really important coming up.” Parents of students attending First Street School were happy Tuesday to hear the news of Ayala’s award. “I’m proud to be here,” said Ursula Shane, who has two children attending First Street. “It’s a good school and he’s a great principal.” Guillermo Ignacio agreed that the award was good news and he’s pleased his children go there. “You always have to strive to improve,” Ayala said. “You can’t just say, ‘OK, we’ve accomplished this, now we’re good.’” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at