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Viola M. Garcia is a longtime educator from Harris County, Texas. Photo: NSBA

The National School Boards Association has its first Latina president in Viola Garcia

The longtime educator and school board member has served on the Aldine Independent School Board of Trustees in Harris County, Texas since 1992.

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On Sunday, April 10, Viola M. Garcia of Texas’ Aldine Independent School District was elected as president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), making her the first Latina to ever hold the position.

Anna Maria Chávez, NSBA Executive Director & CEO, congratulated Garcia for her historic election, saying that she, along with the other newly elected members of the leadership team, will contribute to the much-needed transformation within the public school system.

Garcia has served on the Aldine Independent School District Board of Trustees, representing Position 7 in the state, since 1992, making her the longest-tenured member.

The veteran educator and school board member has also held positions as a teacher, school principal, university professor, and department chair in urban education teacher preparation.

During her time as an emeritus professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, she promoted educational programs and students by training future teachers for local school districts, including Aldine.

The Latina education leader is also a member of the Mexican American School Board Members Association, once serving as that organization’s president. Previously, Garcia also served as regional director, secretary-treasurer and president of the Texas Association of School Boards.

Garcia holds a Doctor of Education degree in Higher Education Administration and Supervision, as well as a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston.

As she spoke to attendees at the third general session of NSBA 2021, Garcia expressed gratitude for her election, and said she was proud to be able to continue her public service at the national level “with an esteemed group of school board members and education leaders.”

She began her remarks with a brief moment of silence to acknowledge the losses, grief and struggles that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to so many.

Although professionals in the education sphere were faced with an unprecedented challenging year, Garcia commended them for the way they “pivoted and readjusted” to accommodate students as best as they could.

“NSBA embarked on a transformation that led us to refocus who we are and what we do, to better serve you, our members, the state associations, and, ultimately our primary beneficiaries, the students of this great nation,” she said. 

Garcia then urged fellow school leaders to continue encouraging their students to expand their horizons and dream bigger than they have before. 

She wants to ensure that young minds are emboldened to stay curious, seek knowledge and professional opportunities and prepare for opportunities to “step up.” 

Reflecting on the way that the pandemic forced us all to adapt the way that we learn, communicate, connect and teach, Garcia emphasized the importance of being able to see problems as stepping stones for growth, rather than reasons to lose hope. 

“We must also be ready to continue to develop mindsets that see problems as opportunities and challenges to be solved, and not as threats that require reliance on old deficit models, old thinking, yesterday’s dreams, and least of all, cause to retreat,” she said. 

Garcia also touched on her upbringing, and the “humble” nature of it. She was raised in a rural-farming-ranching community in south Texas, and she lost her father at the tender age of nine. 

“I have attempted to live my life in a way that honors my ancestors, my parents, and especially my mother, who forged ahead to support her three children,” Garcia stated. 

Addressing the NSBA federation members, Garcia said, “we can bring our united and collective voices to the forefront. Together, we can and will make a difference with hard work and in pursuit of opportunities that today’s challenges provide.”

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