Barrington 220 Staff Profile: Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell HOW THE NEW PRINCIPAL OF SUNNY HILL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS WORKING TO CLOSE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP.

"¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás?" says new Sunny Hill Elementary School Principal Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell as she enthusiastically greets students for the day. Children happily chatter as they enter their classrooms, excited to start a new school day.

Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell provides a warm greeting to students in the hallway of Sunny Hill Elementary School.

Sunny Hill Elementary School is truly a sunny place to be. Known for positivity and kindness, that contagious attitude stems from the staff and trickles down to the students and families.

“The staff here are incredible,” said Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell. “They have made me feel so welcome. They are so warm and will help each other with anything.”

“The staff here are incredible,” said Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell. “They have made me feel so welcome. They are so warm and will help each other with anything.”

Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell may be the new principal at Sunny Hill, but she is not new to Barrington 220. Before starting her new role in July, she served as the Director of Languages and Grants. Prior to coming to Barrington, she held a variety of administrative and teaching positions in districts across the Chicago area. The decision to return to the school-level was passion-driven for Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell.

“I was born to be a teacher. I truly believe that an administrator’s role is to help teachers. Coming back to work in a school for me has been coming home,” she said. “I’m so happy to be here in in a school with teachers and students, and being able to focus so much more of my energy on instruction.”

“I was born to be a teacher. I truly believe that an administrator’s role is to help teachers. Coming back to work in a school for me has been coming home." -Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell

Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell’s dream to be an educator started at an early age. Growing up in Chicago, she knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she entered kindergarten.

“We used to play school on our back porch and I was always the teacher, “ she laughed.

After graduating from Loyola University, she jumped into a general education elementary school classroom in the Chicago Public School District, and fell in love with the profession.

“I loved being a teacher. It was amazing. Kids are natural sponges, they are so curious and genuine.”

Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell and Assistant Principal Leticia Valadez greet students in the lunch line.

Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell taught as a classroom teacher for several years until she started a family and had kids of her own. She took a nine-year break from teaching before re-entering the workforce as a bilingual teacher in District 300. That sounds like an easy transition for a seasoned educator, but there was one hurdle she had to overcome--learning how to speak Spanish. That didn’t stop her from taking the job. Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell immersed herself in the language in order to become fluent within her first year.

Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell with her family

“From the minute I took that job, I only watched Spanish television, listened to Spanish books on tape, I would do all of my grocery shopping in locations where there were Spanish speakers. I was looking for anyone who spoke Spanish that I could speak the language with,” she said.

Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell is fluent in both Spanish and English and also speaks conversational Italian. As an adult, she taught herself how to speak fluent Spanish, and has dedicated much of her career to bilingual instruction.

Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell works with staff during a professional development session.

Her leadership skills and ability to take on any task thrown her way did not go unnoticed. Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell quickly rose to administrative roles in English Language Learning, grants and building leadership. In addition to her role as Principal at Sunny Hill, she also serves as a member of the Illinois Bilingual Advisory Council, working in conjunction with the Illinois School Board to provide recommendations on bilingual education state-wide.

Dr. Armendariz-Maxwell is thrilled to be part of the Sunny Hill community in her new role as principal, and is determined to take student learning to the next level.

“I’m passionate about working with the staff here to continue to close the achievement gap even more so,” she said.

“I’m passionate about working with the staff here to continue to close the achievement gap even more so." - Dr. Cynthia Armendariz-Maxwell

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