Dr. Jennifer Meglemre, Principal of Burbank’s Dolores Huerta Middle School, has been nominated for the Association of California School Administrators Exemplary Woman in Education Award.
Formed in 1971, the ACSA is an organization that advocates for young public school students and adult learners throughout the State of California. The ACSA Exemplary Woman in Education Award acknowledges top female educators amongst their members. Meglemre was chosen on June 14 as one of 68 finalists after the selection committee received a record-breaking number of nominees.
“This award comes with high expectations,” ACSA Senior Director of Member Services, Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, said in a statement. “The winner will have made noticeable contributions to her profession and has a demonstrated and clear desire to promote and grow other women leaders, all while under the pressures of a pandemic.”
For three years, Meglemre focused on the curriculum, instruction, and assessment element of education, but later took on administrative roles at school campuses in order to more actively make an impact on the lives of students. She was principal of Roosevelt Elementary School in Burbank for seven years before stepping into her role at Dolores Huerta Middle School in 2018.
“I am someone who craves that relationship component of the job and building relationships, not just with my teachers that I work with, but also with families and with the students,” Meglemre said. “I love getting to know about the students and learning what their interests are.”
The passion Meglemre has for providing beneficial services to students continued during the pandemic. As students remained at home for nearly a year of remote learning, DHMS eighth grade student Matteo Solis suggested creating a student-led mentorship program to Meglemre. They then created Cougar Cubs, a system that pairs eighth graders with incoming students to welcome sixth graders entering middle school.
“It was the highlight of my week,” Meglemre said of the mentorship group. “It kept me going all year long, just seeing [the students], talking with them, and working with these great kids on this program that they created.”
Along with upholding a strong academic curriculum and student services, Meglemre has maintained an emphasis on the arts at Dolores Huerta Middle School. The school was recognized by the State of California as one of 2021’s Exemplary Arts Education Schools for their outstanding creative electives such as band, choir, culinary arts, and more.
“That’s something that I think is so important in middle school…to have some great electives,” Meglemre said. “The kids love coming to school and singing in the choir, playing in the band, being in our different digital media classes, and learning those skills.”
The nomination for Meglemre to be considered for the prestigious award was forwarded by Oscar Macias, Principal of Luther Burbank Middle School. Macias chose to pass along Meglemre’s nomination due to her embodiment of the positive qualities that make a strong and successful educator.
“[Meglemre] understands the importance of building community,” Macias said. “She empowers teachers and support staff and cultivates leadership,…creates collaborative and inclusive environments for her students, teachers, and support staff,…and she is a passionate educator and always advocates doing right by all students.”
Progressive changes have been implemented at DHMS in the recent past under Meglemre’s leadership. Dolores Huerta Middle School originally bore the name of David Starr Jordan Middle School but was chosen to be renamed in March of 2021. Dolores Huerta’s legendary social justice activism and community organization led to the Burbank Board of Education selecting her as inspiration for the school’s new title. In addition, the middle school has formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committees for students and parents to discuss methods of implementing diverse texts in the school curriculum. This development came out of Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020, which were triggered by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“It’s really an exciting time to be a principal here in Burbank and then specifically for me here at Dolores Huerta, to be having our school renamed,” Meglemre said, “We’ve also been looking at the novels that we read in our English classes and making sure that we have a positive representation of different cultures and races.”
The ACSA’s selection committee will gather in late June before declaring the Exemplary Woman in Education Award recipient in July. Honorings for the winner will be included at both the November 2021 Leadership Summit and the Spring 2022 Women in School Leadership Forum.
In spite of her significant contributions to education in Burbank, Meglemre says she feels “a little strange to be the person nominated” for the ACSA award, and humbly cites her peers as being equally deserving of recognition.
“I was completely shocked and overwhelmed when I found out,” Meglemre said of discovering her ACSA award nomination. “It means so much to me that the people that I work with would nominate me for this and think of me in that way. I have such a respect for all the people that I work with.”