New Principal Hillary Harrell thought she would pursue a career in journalism, but after she was laid off from her staff writer position she decided to switch occupations – and hasn’t looked back since.
Harrell was born and raised in the East Bay and graduated from Hayward High School, where she served as the Editor-in-Chief of “Haywire,” her school newspaper.
In college, she majored in journalism at San Jose State University.
“I thought I was going to be a writer as a journalist and I was a writer in college,” Harrell said.
After being laid off at “Urban Media,” a telecommunication company that is now defunct, Harrell decided to become an English teacher because of her interest in teaching.
“I have always been drawn to education,” Harrell said. “Teaching has taught me that there are no easy solutions and I’m less judgmental and see things from a variety of points of view.”
Harrell began her educational career in 2001 as an English teacher at Thomas Russell Middle School in Milpitas.
In addition to English, Harrell has also taught secondary English learners and AVID. After 10 years, she became vice principal at Toby Johnson Middle School. She held the vice principal position for six years, including a few years at Franklin High School.
Now, Harrell says, “continuing my administration career feels very natural.”
As principal, she says her attention is fully focused on helping students, teachers, and the Bear Creek community as a whole to recognize their potential for improvement, growth and success.
After attending Bear Creek for three years, junior Kayla Banola has an idea of what a principal should do.
“My ideal principal is a person who is professional, knows how to have fun at events, is easy to talk to, and loves their job and kids most importantly,” Banola said.
Harrell says she feels welcomed by the Bear Creek community and is excited to experience student-run events, such as lunch activities, rallies and club rush.
Harrell is the wife of Justin Harrell and the mother of two young children. She has a 10-year old daughter, Emerson, and a five-year old son, Eliot.
“Being a mother has helped me be more understanding,” Harrell said. “My daughter has problems with attention and focus, which can be galvanizing to me because I want to make sure that we remember everyone learns differently.”
Harrell said that she has heard positive comments about Bear Creek through personal friends and family that initially encouraged her to apply for the principal position.
“I love what I’m doing here and it’s phenomenal,” Harrell said.
One of the things that Harrell has been most impressed with in her first month is the sense of ownership and belonging students express for Bear Creek.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Bear Creek and the area and felt that I would be a good match,” Harrell said.
As the school’s instructional leader, Harrell says she recognizes that one of her duties is to be a resource for students, parents and staff.
“I find it a humbling experience when I don’t have all the answers,” Harrell said. “It taught me the importance of trust, communication, being humble and building relationships.”
Senior Shelby Bartlett admitted she was anxious about having a new principal her senior year, worrying about the changes a new administrator might make.
“All my worries and concerns about senior year were washed away after meeting with the principal at the [Class of 2016’s] graduation,” Bartlett said.
To build a successful high school, Harrell says she isn’t just looking at where Bear Creek wants to be now, but where it wants to be in two or three years.
“My job is to keep our ship afloat and make sure it’s moving in the right direction,” Harrell said.