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Bilingual, Musical, Athletic & Inspired by Many

Meet Your Principal: Tamasha James

School: Pine Ridge Elementary

What and where was your previous job?
Adjunct professor for Davenport University’s College of Urban Education

Bachelor’s in Spanish, master’s in educational leadership

Other positions you have held in education:

  • Secondary Spanish teacher, TriValley Academy, California; Dean of Students
  • Principal, William C. Abney Academy; Vice President of Academic Support, University Partnerships, The Leona Group

How about jobs outside education?
In high school I worked at Taco Bell, in college a convenience store and Lane Bryant. After college I substitute-taught in Grand Rapids Public Schools, worked at the downtown YMCA for the summer youth programs as a camp counselor, and was youth baseball site director.

Besides getting to know the staff and families, what are you most looking forward to as principal here?
Being engaged in the PLC (professional learning committee) process and continuing the work that has already been done in this area of collaboration.

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school?
I was a quiet girl, athletic … playing tetherball and kickball were an absolute must. Math and library time were my favorites along with PE! (a bit of a tomboy, for sure). I loved checking out any Beverly Cleary book, as well as the Guinness Book of World Records. I started playing flute in fourth grade and really enjoyed the band experience, joined tumbling and wanted to be (former Olympic gymnasts) Mary Lou Retton or Nadia Comaneci.

Husband, Kenneth; children Kai, 11 ½ ; Dhani, 10; and Ari, 9

What inspires you, both in your educational role and in your own life?
What I find inspiring is the real, tangible difference educators of all kinds make in the lives of children every day, the stories of before and after, increasing the life chances for individual children and hearing about it later on. I am inspired by the depth of understanding and commitment teachers have for children, going above and beyond because the individual student needed it, not because it was easy or convenient.

In my own life I am inspired by family, by the people who continue to influence me with their work ethic, like my mother and father-in-law, who meet challenges and new things head-on and consistently conquer them. My mother-in-law inspires me because her love for people is as Christ has asked us to love: She is a wonderful person who loves always in action and deed. And by my sister, who works too much, is single, but gets up every day to do what she has to for her family.  I am inspired by my husband, who is my soulmate and best friend.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I have six brothers and sisters and went to school in three states; ran track in high school, which included running hurdles and competing in the long jump; and graduated high school with Terrell Davis (former NFL running back for the Denver Broncos). Marcus Allen (another former football star) went to my high school in San Diego.

A non-professional book you recommend:
“Cutting for Stone”! Life-changing and epic! It had intellect, intrigue, taboo topics, love, travel, agony, heartbreak and triumph!

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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