Lauren Lek has been a student, teacher, vice principal and principal of Moreau Catholic High School.
Courtesy of MOREAU CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
After 20 years as student, teacher, leader,
school's out for Lauren Lek
Lauren Clark Lek came to Moreau Catholic High School as a freshman 20 years ago. She departs, at age 34, as principal. Because of a family move to San Diego, she will leave the Hayward campus and become head of school at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace. She discussed her experiences with Staff Writer Michele Jurich.
It's extraordinary that you've been a student, teacher and finally principal at Moreau Catholic High School.
I had attended Redwood Christian Schools before I came to Moreau Catholic. When I was in fifth grade, I told my mom I was going to Moreau Catholic. What? Where? Really?
She talked with the principal of my school. He said, "Lauren has a vision. She knows where she's going, and God will always direct her path. You have to have faith in that." So my mom thought it would be a phase.
In seventh grade I told my mom I needed a math tutor to start getting ready for the placement test in eighth grade. I got in the honors math program, got all my friends together, we came in and tested at Moreau. As soon as I got the acceptance letter, I knew this was my family.
So this has always been a place I felt led to, a place that God directed me to. In high school, in the newspaper, I was "most likely to return to Moreau." It really is true that God has directed every path of my life.
So that girl would not have been surprised to be principal?
A. I think how quickly it all happened. To be my age, at 30, and be in my dream job, was tremendous, and truly divine. It was not planned, not something that I had engineered. It was God's doing. I truly feel that at every crossroads of my life. That's something I try to share with my colleagues and my students: We don't know God's plan for our life. There's a children's hymn I remember singing all through Sunday school, "When you can't see his hand, trust his heart." I believe that is so true in our lives. Changes and challenges, and those hurdles, and those beautiful joys, we don't always see how that comes about. It is through faith that we journey forward.
At the time I resigned, I didn't have a job. I believe God will direct my path, and he has chosen for my little family, and my life, and I go in his guidance and his care.
How's the transition?
It's one of excitement. I'm thrilled to head off, it's an amazing new adventure, so excited to be at my new school, but any time you leave your family — and that's how I feel about being here, this is my family, and my community — so there's a bit of sadness with that, too.
Can you tell us about your family?
I have two precious little men, a 10-month-old Willem and a 4-year-old Lucas, just absolute joys. And my husband, John. Lucas will going to Notre Dame Academy in San Diego. So I will spend my evenings, mornings and weekends with all boys and I now get to spend my days with all girls.
Will this be your first experience with an all-girls school?
Living up in the Hayward hills, Moreau was my choice. All-girls education was not local. I see in this day and age the necessity of educating our women to ensure they are the leaders in their families and their communities so they become the agents of change. When women are educated, with both the heart and mind, and as great scholars, and people of great value, Catholic value, they will change this world. They will change their families. They will ensure their children are educated. The opportunity to talk about this is exciting. The leadership kids at OLP asked me to do a talk for their leadership conference. So I did a video. I had the opportunity to talk about issues related to women, issues related to girls and leadership. It was so much fun.
What are your proudest accomplishments at Moreau Catholic?
I think it is two-fold. I think the relationships that have been developed and nurtured, strengthening the culture of collaboration, of learning together with one another. I was assistant principal for instruction when we launched the 1-to-1 laptop program. I think building a culture of innovation and 21st-century skills. Our teachers here are incredible. I've seen the depth of knowledge grow around our Holy Cross charism in such a beautiful way. We don't do anything here in isolation. It's not about me as principal. It's about this community, we do it together. There's vibrancy to that.
You are colleagues with the people who taught you.
It's a testament to the culture that exists here. Faculty and staff don't see themselves as lording over their students, but really as collaborators in knowledge building. I'll never forget that first year I was an official teacher. A group of female teachers had gotten together for dinner and they invited me. There was this very surreal moment, and I've never forgotten it: I'm sitting there with my former principal, my teachers. I am their colleague. It was in that beautiful moment I felt accepted as an equal, and challenged to the best I could be because I had learned so much from them and now I was carrying that burden of excellence to ensure my students' knowledge and understanding.
The responsibility of being their leader, truly, being their servant, to carry on the legacy they had instituted here, it was an amazing, humbling experience.
Advice for teachers who might consider teaching where they went to school? Can it be a good thing?
A beautiful thing! I have treasured the opportunity of serving in the school from which I graduated. You own the education. You own those experiences.
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