By Karen Billing
When new R. Roger Rowe Middle School Principal Garrett Corduan accepted his new job, he arrived to Rancho Santa Fe in the dead of summer, finding himself in a bit of a “ghost town.” As summer sped by, people trickled in and he was able to meet staff and community members but what he can’t wait most for is the students who arrived on the first day of school Aug. 26 (after this interview took place).
“The place comes to life when the students walk in the door, that’s going to be really exciting,” Corduan said.
The San Diego native comes to Rowe from the Murrieta School District, where he served as a middle school principal. He said his philosophy as a school leader is the “servant-style” — it truly makes him feel good to help others with what they need, be it students, staff or parents. He said everything appears to be in the right place in Rancho Santa Fe and he wants to provide that assistance to help the district continue in the right direction, and assist teachers and staff in making a smooth transition into the new Common Core Standards-based teaching.
He said he is happy to join “an amazing staff” that is so professional and so well-prepared, and he can’t wait to see them in action with the students, bringing their learning and achievement to the highest levels.
“These kids are very fortunate to have what’s available to them at the elementary and middle school,” Corduan said.
Corduan comes from a long line of educators but he himself didn’t initially set out to have a career in education.
“It was a realization of sorts when I volunteered in a second grade classroom and I had a moment where I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” he said.
He taught second and third grades in Poway, where he met his wife of 18 years Terri, a fellow teacher. Corduan said they had their first date on a weekend and by Monday he was so sure she was the one that he proposed — they got married three months later.
When the pair decided to start a family, the Corduans moved to Temecula and he went to work as a fourth grade teacher in the Murietta Valley Unified School District and Terri was a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters, one now a freshman at Del Sur High School and the other a seventh grader at Oak Valley Middle School.
Terri will also be joining the staff at R. Roger Rowe in the elementary school as a math teacher.
“It’s a good thing for both of us,” Corduan said.
At Murietta, Corduan became an elementary school assistant principal in 2005 and was then selected to open a new visual and performing arts middle school, Dorothy McElhinney Middle School, as its principal.
“It was a lot of fun, opening a new place and developing a new culture. It was fun to design things from scratch, building and putting pieces together for a great campus,” Corduan said.
It was a lot of work to open up a new school, but Corduan said he learned a lot about himself and how to make a successful system.
“As a teacher I loved the connections you make with students and what you can provide them. As an administrator, you can do the same thing with more students and that was what appealed to me,” Corduan said. “You can lead larger groups and initiate greater change.”
He said he loves working with middle school students.
“As soon as I stepped on campus and started interacting with middle schoolers I knew that is where I belonged,” Corduan said. “It’s an age group that you can have adult conversations with students that are ready for it…it can be a strange time but you can push students in the right direction at a time when choices can have some serious weight to them.”
The decision to leave Temecula and the Murrieta district that he called home for the last 10 years was not an easy one, but he was influenced by the RSF School District’s reputation and by his wife, Terri, who had worked in Rancho Santa Fe years ago as a teacher’s assistant in the science department.
“She knew the school and knew how special and unique this place is,” said Corduan, who noted her insight helped him to make the “life-altering change” for his family, perfect timing with his oldest daughter just beginning high school.
He said the change has definitely been worth it so far.
“There’s a depth to what’s being offered to students that’s more than just the basics of education,” Corduan said. “We’re preparing students for life, not just preparing them to take a test…who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”