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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Gabrielino says goodbye to Principal Heinrich

By Halle Fukawa | Editor in Chief

Photo courtesy of Sharron Heinrich

   Educator. Principal. Trail-blazer.

   Three words cannot capture the person Gabrielino High School Principal Sharron Heinrich is, nor can they do justice to the impact she has had. From the school’s opening in 1994, through the hectic pandemic-ridden 2020-2021 school year, Heinrich has been involved in nearly every aspect of the campus. 

   After a combined total of 20 years at Gabrielino, Heinrich announced in February that she will be retiring after the 2020-2021 school year. Although she will be enjoying the time to relax, she plans to make the most of her newfound time. 

“It is going to be very difficult to walk away, but I know it is time to move on. I am going to go from being called ‘Mrs. Heinrich’ to being called Gammie,” laughed Heinrich. “I am looking forward to spending a lot more time with my three grandsons. After the grandkids, my first trip will be to see my close friend in Colorado, [then] spending more time with my elderly parents.”

   On May 12, Gabrielino’s new principal was announced at the board meeting to be Dr. David Rynkiewicz, the former Vice Principal of West Covina High School. 

   In 1994, Heinrich was one of the first teachers to be hired at Gabrielino, a high school which defied the odds of even being opened. She was the first social studies department chair and taught Introduction to High School, AP European History, and AP U.S. History. 

   “Gabrielino exists because Mrs. Heinrich and many other passionate believers worked to bring this school to the community over 25 years ago,” revealed Main Office Clerk Kevin Weir. “From stories told, she knocked on doors in San Gabriel asking for residents to support having the school started.”

   In 2001, Heinrich left Gabrielino to become an Educational Manager at the College Board. Although she was no longer a teacher, she remained active as a Gabrielino parent, watching her two sons cross campus, play in the eagle stadium, and graduate at the Santa Anita Racetrack. After seven years, Heinrich returned to Gabrielino as the Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction for a year prior to becoming principal. 

   Throughout her career as a principal, Heinrich has been there to support Gabrielino in times of transition and uncertainty. 

   “When Mrs. Heinrich took the helm at Gab, we were still in the land of No Child Left Behind and the CSTs and the CAHSEE,” explained former Assistant Principal Ruth Esseln, who now works as the Director of Student Support and Assessments for San Gabriel Unified School District. “There were no 21st century skills that we were talking about! Mrs. Heinrich has ferried Gabrielino into the 21st century.”

   Especially this year, with the tremendous challenge of transferring to the Virtual Academy, Heinrich has served as a beacon of inspiration and support for the Gabrielino community.

   “[I am most thankful for] her commitment to the mental health of our students. She has always been so supportive of programs like Peer Helping and the new Wellness Center which serves to help our students be more emotionally healthy,” stated Wellness Center counselor Chris Saporito. “She is leaving that legacy behind and I will forever be grateful to her for that.”

   Aside from ushering in unforeseeable challenges, Heinrich’s duties as principal also include working closely with and improving those around her. 

   “I have known her since the beginning. She has been a colleague as well as a boss and she challenged me to be a better teacher in both roles,” explained teacher Kevin Mcclure.

   Above being a persistent worker and an encouraging boss, Heinrich’s most praised quality is her characteristic warmth. 

   “What I will miss most about Ms. Heinrich is her smile,” explained Assistant Principal Vince Lopez. “I am grateful to call Ms. Heinrich my friend, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

   When asked about their favorite memory with Heinrich, the Gabrielino staff had an abundance to share, ranging from triumphant sports games and proud Senior Award rallies to 2008 Prom pictures and Bono classroom posters. 

   “Mrs. Heinrich is always at [Gabrielino] events, be it sports, music, plays, etc.” explained teacher Kent Montelelone. “She just has that kind of enthusiasm for [the school].”

   Even for the students, whose time at Gabrielino is especially limited, Heinrich has made a lasting impact. 

   “After the 8th grade promotion at [Jefferson Middle School], I remember talking to Mrs. Heinrich,” recalled senior Jack Chiou. “She said she was looking forward to me coming to Gab, and it made me really excited to be a Gab student.”

    When asked to reflect on her favorite moments, she explained that as a parent her favorite memories were watching her sons play on the football team, but as a principal there were too many to count. 

   “Any close athletic event–– buzzer-beater games, CIF wins coming from behind–– speech showcases, plays, concerts, pep rallies, and the announcement each year of the valedictorian and salutatorian are [my] favorite moments.”

   According to Heinrich, the best events are the ones at the end of a season, to show the culmination of persistent hard work and talent. Her retirement offers time for the Gabrielino community to reflect on her true impact on the school as a whole.

   “There has been a great deal of change during my time as principal, but it is the result of the collaboration, talent, and hard work of my administrative teams,” stated Heinrich. “Together we came up with ideas, and with the help of faculty and staff, we made those ideas a reality. I could not have done it without Mr. Lopez, Mrs. Esseln, Mr. Lyons, Mr. Guyer, Ms. Shin, and Mr. Genisauski.”

Heinrich added, “Just a huge thank you to everyone for making my time at GHS extraordinary. No other school can compare to GHS. This school is unique and very special. I am so honored to have been a part of its story.”

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Gabrielino says goodbye to Principal Heinrich