Pedro A. Rivera is being honored as a Latino Educator Champion of Change.
Growing up in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia shaped me into the person I am today. Urban education has always been a part of my life. I was raised by a single teenage mother, and I am the only person in my family to attend and graduate from a post‐secondary institution. My passion for service started while attending Penn State University. While I was enrolled as an engineering major, I began tutoring at a local high school and figured out that I belonged in education. Little did I know at the time, this life-changing experience would lead me down such a rewarding path.
Upon graduating with a degree in education, I returned to my hometown to teach English Language Learners at Kensington High School and basic literacy to adults in the evenings. My passion became clear as I took great pride in changing the lives of kids and serving the greater community. After several roles in the classroom, union, and central office administration, I moved my family nearly 80 miles west to become the first Latino Superintendent of the Lancaster School District.
This new role provided me with an opportunity to advocate for change. While education is an ever‐evolving process, I was now able to lead the charge. After placing a large emphasis on high-quality instruction and hiring the best and the brightest teachers, positive results followed. Our graduation rates continue to rise, and our students have made steady gains in state assessment scores. We have also provided a nationally acclaimed music and arts program and received a recent recognition by the Washington Post as one of the top twenty high schools for academic rigor in Pennsylvania.
Nestled in the heart of Lancaster County in southeast Pennsylvania, the School District of Lancaster serves a diverse student body of 11,500 students, which educates approximately 1,000 homeless students during the course of a year. 17% of our students are learning English, and more than 38 languages are spoken throughout our buildings.
We know that we must remove barriers to success in order for our students to thrive. For the past several years, every student in our District has received free breakfast and lunch each school day. Through our community schools, students can receive eye glasses, dental care, and comprehensive medical services. Education is much more than teaching the core subjects. We must cater to the whole child to ensure we meet and exceed their individual needs.
I am deeply honored to receive the Latino Educator Champion of Change award. I continue to be humbled and inspired by the many professional team members I surround myself with each day. Together, all of us can strengthen America’s future by supporting the many students who fill our classrooms.
Pedro Rivera is the Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster and a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania.