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Listening and leading produces nationally-recognized backdrop for learning

John Gutierrez

HIGHLANDS RANCH - John Gutierrez always loved school when he was growing up. He decided at an early age he wanted to be a teacher, and has never looked back.

“My mom and dad valued education and always told me what an honorable career it would be,” he said, adding, “They were so right!”

Gutierrez received his education in Colorado, attending Colorado State University after graduating from Regis Jesuit High School. He received a Masters degree in Education from the University of Phoenix. 

Q & A with John Gutierrez

What was your first job?
Twilight Golf Course - picked up range balls and mowed greens.

If you had the opportunity to pursue another career, what would you choose? 
A major league baseball umpire.

Who inspires you?
My kids - I want to do better each day for them.

What is the last book you read?
What Great Teachers Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, as part of a book study with our teachers.

What was your favorite subject in high school? 

Are you a cat or dog person? 
Dogs - I like cats too, but they make me sneeze!

What was your first car? 
1967 Dodge Monaco Station Wagon - I had a large carpool going from South Denver to Regis High School.
Favorite store to browse?
PGA Superstore.

Favorite Colorado getaway? 
The mountains, Breckenridge and golf - there are over 250 courses in Colorado!

Favorite restaurant? 
Del Frisco's - I asked my wife to marry me there.

He remained in Colorado as he followed his career path, beginning in Englewood as a teacher and athletic director at All Souls School. Gutierrez has served both elementary and secondary students throughout the years, working as a baseball coach at Heritage and Englewood High Schools, as the Dean of Students at Flood Middle School (Englewood), as the Assistant Principal at Vaughn Elementary School (Aurora), and as the principal at Oakland Elementary School (Denver). He is now in his eleventh year as the principal at Cougar Run.

The philosophy that Gutierrez follows as he leads Cougar Run is based on the servant leadership model, as described by Robert K. Greenleaf, founder of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership: “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

“We champion this thinking at Cougar Run,” Gutierrez explains. “As leaders, we define a clear vision for success for all stakeholders. We nurture this vision by listening, learning and seeking to understand before being understood.”

“Building community and a collective efficacy towards continuous improvement have been the staples for our success,” adds Gutierrez. 

That success includes an announcement last fall that Cougar Run was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2014 Blue Ribbon School. The school was honored in the department’s Exemplary High Performing Schools category, and is one of only four schools in Colorado, and 337 schools nationwide, to be recognized with a Blue Ribbon award in 2014.

Gutierrez is quick to point out that it is more than philosophy that makes Cougar Run a great place for learning.

“It has just been remarkable–the collaborative effort of our staff, parents and community to make each and every day a learning experience, that is thoughtful, creative, meaningful and fun.  We all care about what our students learn and who they become.”

The daily interactions with students and their parents, as well as the school’s staff, is what Gutierrez enjoys most about his job as principal. 

“It is the quality of the people connected to our learning community that makes Cougar Run a great place to work and learn.”

Related article: Cougar Run Elementary recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School

January 20, 2015 | By SCPaulsen | Category: Elementary Education

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