“I don’t follow bosses, I follow leaders.”
Throughout her career, Summer Ahmed has always looked up to the strong and brilliant women within her community. It is their support and guidance that has led Summer to where she is today: Assistant Principal of Democracy Prep at the Stewart Campus!
But Summer didn’t always want to be the leader of a top-performing school in San Antonio. Her journey begins in graduate school at the University of Texas at San Antonio. While she was studying to complete her Masters Degree in counseling, she needed to find a job that would provide a flexible schedule that aligned with her responsibilities as a student. That’s when she landed a job as a paraprofessional at a school that supports children with autism. This school was very different from the schools that she would later come to experience. The students that attended this school came from predominantly wealthy backgrounds. Access to technology was the norm and the district didn’t have to worry about diminishing resources.
However, Summer would soon find herself in a vastly different school environment. Midway through her graduate program, she moved to a different school in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), where she would learn the true importance of a strong foundation in early childhood education. The greatest turning point for her was taking on the role of Parent Liaison at a new elementary school campus. She describes the experience as “eye-opening,” as it allowed her to see the power of working with families, saying “This was the first time I was sitting with families, seeing what they were going through, and understanding the crucial role a school plays in supporting a community.”
Having been blessed with a great principal who inspired her to do her best everyday, she began to realize that she found a new calling. She asked her principal, “Do you think I could be a teacher?” and she was met with nothing but positivity and the reassurance that she would do great things as an educator. That’s why at the end of that school year, Summer joined her principal at a new campus where she got the chance to teach in a classroom for the very first time.
With 4 years of teaching experience under her belt, Summer was feeling pretty great about her place in education. It wasn’t until she met Virginia Boyce at a campus leadership program that she thought she might want to challenge herself and transition into a role in leadership. Summer says of the experience, “Working with Virginia in an academic and collaborative relationship allowed me to see that she knows what she’s doing, has direction, and a greater vision. I’m not there yet, and I want to be at that level.”
Virginia was eager to work with Summer too! Not too long after the program, Virginia reached out to her about a leadership position at a new campus in SAISD. And that’s how Summer found her way to being Assistant Principal of Democracy Prep at the Stewart Campus! To Summer, this transition goes back to the importance of “people seeing potential in you and being able to coach you, and nurture your growth. That’s something that Virginia has given me.”
Summer is a product of following in the footsteps of the people who inspire her and she’s paying it forward by making sure that her families and team feel supported and heard. She accomplishes this by being very thoughtful and holistic when tasked with making decisions. She tries to listen to all perspectives and voices, so that she can “consider all different aspects, and make sure I’m thinking about the bigger picture.” In addition, she appreciates collaboration with her team because “it’s always helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of or get feedback.” Following this approach has also enabled her to have strong relationships with the teachers she supports and the families she works with.
That’s what keeps Summer at Democracy Prep: the connections she’s made with families as well as the teachers that she coaches. What she loves most about being Assistant Principal is watching her team and scholars grow and how she has nurtured their growth, the same way that her mentors have done so for her. To Summer, there’s no greater reward than making a positive impact on the people she is entrusted to serve.
You may be wondering, “What inspires Summer to do the hard work of being an educator everyday?” She answered that her mentor teacher—the principal who encouraged her to become a teacher AND is now actually Stewart Campus’ on-site tutor—is the person she looks up to when thinking about who she strives to be as a leader. Summer goes on to say, “I watch her interact with the people in our building, see her supporting our teachers and helping kids grow academically, and she does it with such finesse and ease. I always strive to reach her level as I continue to improve my practice.”
For folks who would like some advice on how to navigate the education landscape, Summer advises you to “collaborate as much as you can with people who are consistently supportive.” Her success as an educator is not only due to her hard work and dedication, but also thanks to the people she surrounds herself with. She says, “I was very fortunate to have a really strong instructional coach, a strong mentor teacher, and a strong principal who I knew were there to help me. There are always people within a school who will offer you a system of support and a means for you to grow, and it’s your job to make sure you are leveraging the people around you.”
One thing that Summer’s story teaches us is the incredible power of someone believing in you. It is something that helps us look within ourselves, realize our strengths, work on our weaknesses, and pushes us to continue to grow into the best version of ourselves. We hope you’ve read Summer’s story and are inspired by her too!