A conversation with Dallas ISD Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern Principal Roberto Gonzalez, member of Principal Impact Collaborative (PIC) at UNT Dallas, 2022 Cohort of The Principal Fellowship.
By: Steven Santoyo
Photos Courtesy of Dallas ISD and Principal Gonzalez
The design process is the foundation of Dallas ISD’s brand-new PK3-8 campus led by Principal Roberto Gonzalez. Opening this fall, the Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern will welcome in its inaugural group of PK3-1st grade students selected via a lottery system to learn within Dallas ISD’s first-ever STEM program focused on Biomedical Sciences. In addition to UT Southwestern, the school plans to partner in the coming years with other community stakeholders in the Medical District as the school prepares to open in phases to higher grade levels each year.
PIC 2022 Cohort member Principal Gonzalez aims to lead this new campus in its journey to stimulate curiosity about the wonders of science while also providing children a foundation for future discovery.
“The values of the campus that we are going to instill are curiosity, creativity, resilience, empathy, innovation, and leadership,” Principal Gonzalez said. “The way I envision the campus is that it is going to create the next generation of designers and design thinkers, which means they are not only going to be good at what they do, but they will do it with empathy.”
Principal Gonzalez helped create Stevens Park Elementary School’s first-ever “STEM Lab” before his time at the Biomedical Preparatory School at UT Southwestern. Before leading the Stevens Park community, Principal Gonzalez worked for many years in education as a teacher, coach, and campus leader in the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas ISD. Before working as an educator, Principal Gonzalez practiced medicine as a doctor in Colombia. His wide variety of life experiences has led him to this new chapter in his principalship. Through his current engagement with PIC, Principal Gonzalez is excited to see his design expertise grow and take new forms.
“The design thinking process is a part of what I need to do at this campus because of its rapid prototyping,” Principal Gonzalez said. “I will constantly ask myself what's working or not working.”
In his first week with PIC programming, Principal Gonzalez participated in various team-building and introspective workshops. Throughout these activities, he learned more about how the design process can be linear and nonlinear. Most notably, the workshop on “empathy interviews” supported Principal Gonzalez in thinking about ways he will include voices from stakeholders on his campus to create better outcomes for students.
“I believe the empathy interviews are valuable in getting to the root cause faster, which lead you to be able to design solutions with everybody's point of view,” Principal Gonzalez said. “I appreciate them (PIC) ensuring we focus on interviewing the ‘end-user.’ We, of course, remember the ones who are invested, but I learned to not forget about the ones who do not talk as often or may need you to reach out to them. It’s about getting as much voice as possible to find the best solutions.”
The Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern is designed to embrace the diversity of the Dallas community. Under the “50/50 model,” admission ensures that 50% of students attending come from economically disadvantaged communities. Priority for admission is given to students living in the neighborhood surrounding the Medical District and within the Dallas ISD boundary lines but ultimately is still open to all living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who are willing to embrace this one-of-a-kind schooling experience. The school will give our students access to the UTSW simulation center that will include models of doctor’s offices and other opportunities to see and feel what it is like to work as a healthcare professional.
To keep in touch with the journey of Principal Gonzalez this coming fall, visit his school’s website - https://www.dallasisd.org/biomedicalprep - or follow him on Twitter @DrGplus1 or his campus @DISDBiomed. You can also follow PIC at @PICatUNTD on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“Never forget to do what you like and enjoy it,” Principal Gonzalez said. “So, when the bad times come, they're not as bad as you think. You need to be true to yourself. If you’re doing everything for the student's good, everything will make sense at some point. Always build your network; don’t be afraid to ask others because the solution is out there. Sometimes we cannot see it.”
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