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DALLAS — For Rachel Alpert, it was a husband-and-wife team of elementary teachers who led her to believe she could do anything she wanted.

Alpert, the new Lyle Elementary School principal, decided to follow their example.

“They were those educators in my life that I knew that they saw me, which is really, really important,” Alpert said.

She grew up the child of a single mom in a rural town in Northern California. Alpert was the first in her family to attend college, and it was those two teachers who helped her see the path she needed to take.

“Those elementary years and public education were truly transformative for me,” Alpert said.

Serving as a principal for the first time in her career, Alpert feels honored to be leading a school that seeks to provide the same to its students.

“We are laying the foundation for a very long educational journey that students are just starting, so we want those experiences to be positive for students, positive for families,” she said.

Alpert’s undergraduate studies at University of California — Los Angeles weren’t in education, but philosophy. She’s carried some of those principles into education.

“Most of the draw in philosophy for me was in applied ethics,” Alpert said. “We have a huge moral responsibility to be providing a public education for our young people, and that should be a quality education.”

From UCLA and philosophy, she moved to Oregon State University, where she earned a master’s in education. She studied special education at Western Oregon University and earned her administrative license at George Fox University.

Alpert spend her first 10 years in education in the Salem-Keizer Public Schools in general education, special education, behavior support, staff professional development and instructional coaching. She’s always worked at the elementary level and in schools that are a part of the federal Title I program, which gives financial assistance to schools with a high number of low-income students.

“That work is very, very close to my heart,” Alpert said.

She said that with her first decade in education at Salem-Keizer, which has more than 40 elementary schools, moving to Dallas is like going home. She feels comfortable being back in a small-town environment.

“I think it’s really important for schools in general — but especially for elementary schools — to feel like a hub and a home for our community,” Alpert said. “Raising our young people to be good citizens is more than the work of the school. It’s definitely a community undertaking, so being able to do that in a small community, in a small district, is very much aligned with the work that I think schools should be doing.”

With the first day of school rapidly approaching, Alpert said she’s eager to have students return to the building. She said the best part of preparing for the new school year was meeting incoming kindergarten students who participated in a program that introduces them to school.

“I would say that the best thing in these weeks has been the Kinder Jump Start program that was housed at Lyle this year, and how wonderful it was to just to hear little voices in the building,” she said.

Her routine for the first day of school is to arrive early and have a few cups of coffee before the school day officially begins.

“I will be out and present. The most important thing is to begin building those relationships from day one,” she said. “I think there’s something really special about being at the beginning of a young person’s journey and seeing that light that in kids’ eyes. I feel the need to make sure that we do everything that we can to support that and stoke that.”

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