I agree with Mr. Winters that building kids up starting at an early age is extremely rewarding. And I think "Camarena" is an excellent choice as the name of the new school.
Dan Winters to be first principal of Camarena Elementary
By Caroline Dipping
JAN. 21, 2013
CHULA VISTA — Veteran South County educator Dan Winters has been named the inaugural principal of Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School, which is slated to open its doors in July. Winters is currently principal of Salt Creek Elementary.
Winters, 50, has been a principal in the Chula Vista Elementary School District since he was hired at Halecrest Elementary in 2004. Before that, he spent 17 years at Castle Park High School as a teacher, basketball coach and administrator.
The Eastlake resident said making the move from the high school to elementary school level was a culture shock “all in a good way,” and he never looked back.
“I loved high school and loved that age, but found I really had an opportunity in elementary school to build kids from day one educationally,” Winters said. “It’s been a great blessing.”
Winters is already crafting his vision for the success of Camarena Elementary, which was named last spring to commemorate the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was kidnapped and killed in 1985 while on assignment in Mexico. Located in the Otay Ranch Village 11 area, the 11.85-acre campus will accommodate up to 800 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about schools,” he said. “I would say if there is one thing I’d like to accomplish, I think of it as being when a kid wakes upon a Saturday morning, I hope the first thought is ‘Darn! It’s not a school day.’
“That is the picture I want to paint. Learning is exciting. My goal is to increase and multiply that in every classroom every day.”
Dual immersion studies and technology will play a big part in the school’s curriculum, Winters said. A passionate reader of fiction and nonfiction, he said literacy will still be the cornerstone of learning.
Winters graduated from Castle Park High in 1980. (“Once a Trojan, always a Trojan,” he said. “I bleed red and black.”) A graduate of San Diego State University, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from National University and his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of La Verne.
He joined Castle Park High’s faculty in 1986, where he taught English and ESL for seven years. An avid basketball player, he then coached Castle Park’s junior varsity and varsity teams for several years before moving into administration as attendance coordinator and assistant principal.
“I never intended to get into administration, but I found I loved it and I was good at it,” Winters said. “I connected with the kids and staff.”
Winters is married to his high school sweetheart, Leila Kashani, who is the assistant principal at Hilltop High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District. They have two children, one in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.