Rio Rico High School’s Hector Estrada, with his Grand Canyon University Principal of the Month award.

Hector Estrada, second-year principal at Rio Rico High School, has earned two student-driven honors since the start of 2021. 

In January, Estrada was named the Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) after being nominated by RRHS senior Yamileth Barcelo for his “significant contributions to her academic career.”

According to a news release from the NSHSS, Barcelo said Estrada was deserving of the award “because he puts everyone before him, and is always so positive and cheerful. He’s been one of my main reasons to be so involved in my school and community, and he’s inspired me to be a better leader.”

For his part, Estrada said the recognition “meant the world to me,” adding that it was especially significant to be nominated by one of his students.

“Everything I do has our students at the forefront,” he said. “I often tell our great ‘staffulty’ (the name Estrada coined for staff and faculty) that we all had our high school experience, our job is to make our students experience the best possible experience ever.”

Then in February, Estrada was named the Grand Canyon University Principal of the Month after GCU selected nine outstanding principals in Arizona who “demonstrated creativity and vision at their schools.” 

Estrada was chosen for “implementing or supporting innovations designed to increase student success.” Specifically, he was chosen for the school’s graduation parade held last spring in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in which RRHS seniors paraded up and down the frontage road in decorated cars.

Estrada also noted how the RRHS Student Senate helps develop leaders on campus.

“The student senate is a group of students from each grade level and various backgrounds that I meet with monthly or as often as possible,” he said. “I met with the student senate to gain the student voice, insights and perspective. I also teach and demonstrate leadership skills so that they can lead their peers and be leaders on campus.” 

The Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District said it “is proud of Principal Estrada’s creativity, leadership and student driven culture that earned him both honors.”

Estrada was hired as RRHS principal in May 2019 after working nine years in the Sahuarita public school system. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2010, then taught English and coached sports at Sahuarita High School before becoming assistant principal at Walden Grove High School.

(From a news release submitted by Shannon Enciso of the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District.)

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