Creating an Education Family
Social and emotional learning in the hallways and at home
Hired as a teacher in the Vista Unified School District in 1999, Rafael Olavide has been the principal at the Grapevine Elementary School since 2012. Teachers at the elementary school share their joy for working at Grapevine and talk of how others wish to work there, all because of the way Rafael creates a family atmosphere inside the school. From the students and parents all the way through the teachers and entire school staff, everyone is a valued and respected member of the Grapevine Elementary learning community. Rafael believes in social and emotional learning and lives the example every day in his school hallways.
“This work has given me the opportunity to work with students, teachers, families, and administrators at different levels,” Rafael says. “That has given me the opportunity to see the big picture, to see specifically what each role in our school does and how important those roles are. No matter what your role in school is, it’s important that you and I have the relationships that are going to make that wheel move.”
Working with underprivileged students and families as well as a large ESL community, Rafael concentrates on applying his limited budget most effectively in the best areas to get the biggest bang for his buck all while keeping the lines of communication open between parents, teachers, students, and staff. Whether it’s more teacher training or maybe more language development training for his teachers or interventions for their students, he supervises the additional purchase of resources and monitors to make sure that those are effective in the classroom.
Rafael notes that throughout his career, the schools that he has been serving all have high percentages of students who come from other language home-speaking environments, the vast majority being Spanish. “Literacy is very important for our students because they come with a different language,” Rafael says. “There’s an element of socio-economic status that is heavy as well.”
“We know that students, regardless of the language proficiency, are coming from socio-economic environments that are below the norm,” he says. “We know that there are some gaps in terms of literacy and opportunities when they step in our schools in kindergarten.”
This is the gap that his educators need to work across. Rafael says that there is a point where you really have to be strategic on how you’re going to be able to close that gap with a number of interventions. “Think of literacy and language development,” he says. “Those are the two critical pieces that we need to have in place here, not to mention the social and emotional component that is very prevalent in our schools.”
But the parents are of key importance. “I keep telling them, ‘Think of it as a triangle ─ student, school, home,’” he says. “If the home piece is not strong and they are not part of the process, you’re going to see me calling them more frequently.” Rafael and his team at Grapevine Elementary are finding the balance between the technology, the support for that technology, and what the technology can do in the classroom as the change agent in student learning. “You have to find that balance,” Rafael says. “And, of course, informing our parents about those programs because for them to be successful, all those programs have to have that continuity at home.”
About Rafael Olavide
Rafael Olavide was born in Madrid, Spain, he moved to the United States in 1993, where he started working in education as a bilingual aide in the classroom while attending school at the University of San Diego. In 1999 he was hired as a teacher in the Vista Unified School District. In 2002 he was awarded the Biliteracy Award by the San Diego County of Education. In 2012 he was hired as Principal at Grapevine Elementary. In 2017 he was named Administrator of the Year at the 50th Annual Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) Conference.
Rafael has been working with underprivileged students and families since he started in education and has focused on closing the academic achievement gap. He has been married to his wife Debbie for 25 years and has two children: Victoria, 20, and Michael, 17.
- Times Record – Reading is something many take for granted
- Intervention: Evidence Snapshot – Reading Plus® was found to have potentially positive effects
- Vista Press – Principal Olavide Transforms Grapevine Elementary