Estela Lopez, an educator with 28 years of experience, currently serves as the principal of Dolores Huerta Elementary School. Estela’s commitment to education and her community is deeply rooted in her own experiences. She believes in the power of education to change lives and strives to provide her students with the same opportunities she had. Her career in education began in 1996 in South Los Angeles as a paraprofessional and a librarian at Trinity Street School, and she has been dedicated to serving the community ever since.

Estela’s decision to pursue a career in education was influenced by her desire to provide her younger siblings with a better educational experience. Estela saw education as the path to a brighter future and when she entered 49th Street Elementary, her classroom became her world and she immersed herself in the learning process.

She understood the importance of grasping concepts rather than simply memorizing information, and she took on the responsibility of ensuring her sisters were academically successful, since her parents worked long hours and faced language barriers. But they always emphasized the value of education as the key to success. Estela also acknowledges that her family played a pivotal role in her educational journey especially when her parents supported her in raising her son as a teenage mother. With the support of her family, Estela was able to overcome the challenges that came with being a teenage parent and graduating from high school.

Estela’s commitment to her community and her students is evident in her tireless efforts to ensure they have the support systems needed for their success. Being a mother of three, she understands the significance of providing students with a strong support system. She encourages them to advocate for themselves because, she says, students should feel heard, learn how to voice their concerns and ask for help when needed.

Estela’s ultimate goal is to empower her students with the tools to become self-advocates, equipped with a voice to address challenges and obstacles. She emphasizes the importance of hard work, perseverance, and the realization that overcoming difficulties leads to a brighter future.

Estela’s dedication extends beyond the classroom. With help from the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and her school staff, she is able to support others to ensure her students receive comprehensive support. “If you’re going into education, you have to be willing to put on different hats. Not just as an educator, not just as a teacher, not just as an administrator but in some cases, you end up being the counselor and being the nurse,” said Estela, who has been principal at Huerta for seven years.

She sees the importance of the various roles in nurturing students’ growth and potential, making a meaningful impact on their lives. “And if you’re not willing to do that, education should not be the field you go into. Because our kids have so many needs that have to be met and sometimes we have to do that.”