Life has come full circle for Whitney DeSantis. When she was 8 years old, she would put on a pair of glasses – not because she needed corrective lenses, but to look studious – and read to her stuffed animals.
Now she has been tapped , replacing Deeba Zaher, who will retire at the end of this term. DeSantis will be introduced to the district's board at their 4:30 p.m. meeting Thursday.
Unlike many educators in waiting, DeSantis explored other career paths before settling on her first love. As a stage struck teen she studied voice in her native Virginia for one year, then earned an associates degree at Tidewater Community College. Then she married a naval officer, Robert, became a civil servant in the Defense Department and a mom.
After moving to California in 1992, she returned to college and earned a degree in early childhood development at San Diego State University.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it,” she said. “I thought about becoming a child advocate in the juvenile justice system or a social worker.”
Being a parent volunteer and a teacher’s aide rekindled her interest in teaching. That was 18 years ago. She has taught elementary school students in the Diocese of San Diego and Temecula. Currently she is principal of Alvin Dunn Elementary School in San Marcos.
Reading remains her passion. It is for her the single most important subject at the elementary level. “Literacy leads to success in other subjects,” she said.
Her advocacy for it extends beyond the classroom. She and her husband both have been active in United Through Reading for the past 11 years. The program allows deployed parents to be recorded reading storybooks to their children.
Not only does the activity foster a love of reading, DeSantis said, it also keeps children connected to a deployed parent.
As a Navy mom, she knows the special needs of military families. She remembers teaching while her husband was deployed in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.
“I was mom, teacher, everything,” she said.
While she can empathize with military parents, she is committed to all her students. “Every students is an individual. They all have needs that must be addressed so they can achieve,” she said.
She also subscribes to the whole child concept in education. “When I was in school I wasn’t fond of math, but I loved performing,” she said. “That’s what kept me going in school.”
What keeps her going as a principal is being involved with teachers and students in the classroom. “I’m very hands on,” she said. “I want to be there to help in anyway I can. We’re all in this together.”
By all, she not only means teachers and students, but parents and the community at large. Although she has a wealth of experience she said she is here to take lessons, not just to teach them.
"I am here to listen to the teachers and the community. I want to learn from them what Village Elementary needs."