Peña adapts to a new role as an assistant principal


Peña takes a break from supervising lunch, one of his many tasks as an assistant principal.

Evelyn Dyer, Reporter

As Henry Clay is settling into the 2022-23 school year, so are new teachers and administrators. Notably, after 18 years at Henry Clay, former Spanish teacher Carlos Peña has taken on a new role as an assistant principal. So far, Peña’s new role has been anything but boring. 

“Once you have students come into the building at 8 AM, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Peña said. “It could be anything. You’re constantly busy.”

Peña has learned to “expect the unexpected” this year and relinquish the control he used to have over his day.

“I write down the things that I want to do for the day,” Peña said, “but I have quickly learned that oftentimes, you don’t accomplish half of the things that you have written down for that day because there are things happening all the time.”

Transitioning from being in the classroom to administration has given Peña a new appreciation for the diligence of HC administrators. Whether you are a student or a teacher at Henry Clay, there are always many things happening of which you have no awareness.

“When you’re in the classroom, you’re kind of clustered in there, and that’s your universe,” Peña said. “But when you are more exposed to everything, it’s amazing. All the things that are happening at once are unbelievable.”

Even amid many adjustments for Peña, one thing that has stayed consistent has been his ability to connect with students.

“He was able to form a relationship with all his students,” senior and former Spanish student Justine Lofwall said. “Including me. So he was always checking in and making sure everyone was doing well. Consistently, even now, when I don’t have him, he will check in.”

If anything has changed in his ability to connect with the student population this year, it would be the number of students he can reach.

“Before, I was mostly focused on the about 150 students that I would get in my classroom,” Peña said, “because I would see them every day. But now, when you are there in the halls, you get to see a broader spectrum of students. It has helped me to be exposed to a larger part of the student population.”

In addition to broadening the scope of his connections with students, Peña is interacting with students in different ways this school year. Instead of sharing his love for language learning, Peña finds himself teaching students differently.

“I feel like I’m helping students in all aspects of life,” Peña said. Specifically, Peña is helping students “to make better decisions” and “face challenges that almost [everyone] faces as a teenager.”

Peña has brought a new perspective to the administration team this year as a former teacher and a native Spanish speaker. His experience as a teacher has afforded him insight into students’ lives and the expectations they face, which he can use to his advantage as an administrator. 

“I love my job,” Peña said. “I know that I’m at a different stage in my life right now, but I truly love what I’m doing because I’m a big believer in education. Education has changed my life for the better, and I’m very, very lucky that I had people in my life, especially in high school, that took me aside and [pointed] me in the right direction.”