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PSU College of Education graduate is National Superintendent of the Year
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: February 14, 2020
A Portland State University College of Education (COE) alumnus with a 30-year career in education has now distinguished himself as not only the 2020 Oregon Superintendent of the Year, but the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year.
 
American Association of School Administrators, the School Superintendents Association announced Thursday at a San Diego conference that this year’s winner would be Eugene School District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas,  a 2001 graduate of the PSU Master in Curriculum and Instruction program.
 
"It is truly a humbling recognition for all of the work that we have accomplished here in Eugene," Balderas told the COE on Saturday, February 15. "This is truly a team and broader community award, as it takes all of us to improve our school system. I am fortunate to have attended Portland State, as it drove me to want to continue on to obtain my doctoral degree. PSU played a large part of my professional success and I will always be thankful."
 
In September 2019, Balderas learned that he had received the award from the Oregon Association of School Executives and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and was in the running for the national award.
 
“This is a we award, not a me award,” Balderas said in a recorded speech released on the Eugene School District Facebook page. "It takes a collective to move the work forward. Each and every person who leads a district across our great nation is deserving of this award."
 
He was one of four finalists for the national honor, and only two other Oregon superintendents have received the distinction. Balderas said that his mentors at the COE shaped his life, and he simply strives to pass on that mentorship.
 
“Superintendent Balderas is a visionary instructional leader who has made a significant difference in the lives of underserved communities in Eugene,” COE Dean Marvin Lynn said. “We are extremely pleased to know that he is receiving state and national recognition for his admirable work.”
 
Balderas previously told the COE that he vies for inclusivity, and he certainly seems to achieve it. Almost 40 percent of school principals and 30 percent of all administrators in his school district are people of color, which is a much higher percentage than any other district in the state, said Rob Hess, a school district administrator in Eugene.
 
Balderas, the child of migrant farm workers in Nyssa, Ore., has two other degrees: a bachelor’s in education from Western Oregon University; and doctorate in education leadership from the University of Oregon. 
 
"I stand in front of you today as a proud product of our public school system," Balderas said in his acceptance speech Thursday.
 
In many ways, Balderas shines as an example of all that the COE stands for: equity, inclusivity, diversity, and a passionate belief in the power of pedagogy.
 

“Gustavo Balderas stands as a powerful example of all that the Curriculum and Instruction Department represents: We cultivate effective, passionate teachers and leaders, who advocate for the educational rights of their students,” Curriculum and Instruction Department Chair Will Parnell said.

Photo: Eugene School District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said that in his district, he strives for equity and is committed to doing what’s best for every student. Photo courtesy of the Eugene School District

To share stories with the College of Education, contact Jillian Daley.