By Romuz Abdulhamidov
Summit Rainier Principal Jesse Roe shared his thoughts on the campus community.
1. Why did you choose to become principal? How did it affect your relations with your community?
“When I came to California, I wanted to work in small schools. The schools I worked in in New York were small,” Mr. Roe said. “When I came to Rainier, I was really excited to be part of the Rainier community. I was one of the first teachers to work here. Then, three and a half years ago from now, I became a principal.”
2. Who were you before you became who you are right now?
“My first job, after college, was being a high school math teacher in New York City,” Mr. Roe said. “Then, I moved here, to San Jose, and became a math teacher in Tahoma, another Summit school, for two years. For about a year, I was coaching teachers and working in mentor programs.”
3. How do you feel about your school?
“There is a lot I like about this school,” Mr. Roe said. “The teachers are so caring, hardworking and dedicated in providing amazing opportunities for their students to learn and grow every day. I get blown away by the amazing things they do in their classroom and extra things they do outside of [the] classroom to make such a strong community. I like it here because there are many adults I can trust. I really like interacting with students and watching them learn, talking to them about school and hearing their perspective. I really like how students are determined to make Rainier better. We give a lot of ownership to students because they will need it in college and [they need to have] ownership over their lives and careers.”
4. How did your community change after moving to San Jose?
“When I lived in New Jersey, a lot of people had similar backgrounds and they were from the same part of the world. Their families as well were from the area,” Mr. Roe said. “I didn’t interact with a lot of people of different backgrounds than me until I started teaching in New York City. It was a big learning experience for me; I started teaching students of different backgrounds and beliefs. Even though I was in New York, most of the schools were segregated. In Summit, we do have a lot of students with different backgrounds, beliefs, languages and interests. I really think it helps us to learn about each other a lot and understand each other a lot.”
5. What is your experience of education?
“I was a high school math teacher in New York and in Summit Tahoma,” Mr. Roe said. “As a teacher, my main job was to focus on the students in my classroom and kids in my mentor group. And now, as a principal, my job is to think about all the students and all the adults and how they are learning, growing [and] supported at school. I still get to do some teaching and discipline. I get to work with kids sometimes, but my job is a lot more focused on supporting adults and talking to parents.”
6. How is Summit Rainier different from other jobs you had?
“The schools I worked at in New York were small. They both are new, and had almost the same amount of students,” Mr. Roe said. “The biggest difference is using technology and the fact that all students are prepared to go to college. There wasn’t focus on every single student get[ting] [the] opportunity to graduate. We believe every student has an ability to learn, grow, and go to college. Students have access to materials they need to learn. I believe that’s what makes Rainier unique.”
7. How would you describe the relationship between Summit Rainier and Mount Pleasant?
“We communicate with Mount Pleasant when we need to use their space or our mail gets delivered to them, but we are mostly treated as two separate schools,” Mr. Roe said. “We communicate with them when our students interact or something happens and we need to tell them something we observed with their students. They can tell us if something happened with our students. We have had some collaborations, for example, last year journalism classes were doing a project together. For the most part, we are separate schools, even though we are very close to each other.”
8. How is Summit Rainier different from other Summit schools?
“I don’t know all the differences between Rainier and other Summit schools,” Mr. Roe said. “I am friends with a lot of the principals, so I hear a lot about their schools. I think what makes us unique is that our students are more active and involved in their community, politics and activism. They make sure their voices are heard, and that they are fighting for what they believe. Both our students and teachers take these things seriously. Another big difference is that our teachers have similar experiences to our students. Teachers either went to Summit or had experiences in other high schools. I think that helps to build trust with students. These two things, I believe, makes Rainier special.”
9. What are your plans to make education at Summit Rainier better?
“I do have plans of how to make Rainier a better school,” Mr. Roe said. “We are running a student council program, which is a lot different from the way we did it before. I see a lot of excitement in that, and I think it will help students take a lot more ownership over our school, community, culture and activities. We have changed up our mentor time structure to have circles and opportunities to reflect. I think every week to have that discussion will really strengthen our community because people will understand each other better and trust each other more.”
10. What does strong community mean to you in general?
“A strong community means to me that every person in this community feels like they belong here,” Mr. Roe said. “Everyone in this community thinks that they belong here and they can contribute to the community. When students, teachers and parents come here, they feel like they belong here. I know not everyone feels that way every day. I think we are much closer to becoming a strong community than other schools.”