In the principal’s office: New head man at Whittell happy to be at Lake Tahoe
ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. – Crespin Esquivel was born in the rural mountains of Michoacan, Mexico, delivered by his great-grandmother.
His family immigrated to the United States when he was an infant, living first in Modesto, Calif., and later settling in Winnemucca, Nev. The family received legal status in the 1980s. Esquivel’s father still works at a gold mine in Winnemucca.
Esquivel graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1998, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. Last month, he became the principal of Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove.
Esquivel, 36, said he owes his success to the owners of Scott Shady Court Motel in Winnemucca, where he had worked since the eighth grade. The family that owned the motel had a college scholarship fund for young employees who showed great potential.
One day, they tapped Esquivel.
“They said, ‘Bring your paperwork, because we’re going to fill out all your paperwork for UNR,” Esquivel said.
“I give credit to them,” he added. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be (at Whittell) today.”
At UNR, Esquivel majored in Spanish and aspired to be a teacher. He met his future wife, Danielle Van Foken, who was raised in the Carson Valley and graduated from Douglas High School. She was studying French and aspired to be a French teacher.
The couple married and now have two children: 6-year-old Lucas, a first grader at Faith Christian Academy in Gardnerville, and 4-year-old Mateo, who attends preschool a few times a week.
After graduation from UNR, Esquivel began his teaching career at the Newcomer Center, a program through the Washoe County School District for English learners new to the area. The students were from all over the world, including Vietnam, Russia, China and Mexico.
“I was helping the students get used to the systems here in the United States,” he said. “I got to meet so many students from around the world. It was priceless.”
During that time, he completed a master’s degree in administration from the University of Phoenix. After about four years at the Newcomer Center, he became the dean of discipline at Sparks High School. After two years in Sparks, he was named to the new Hispanic liaison position with the district.
Esquivel helped families prepare for college and learn about advanced placement classes. Some of the parents, like his own, had never attended school at all.
Although he found value in his work, Esquivel missed being around students. So after one year as the district’s Hispanic liaison, he was hired as an assistant principal at Hug High School in Reno as part of the school’s “small school” model that aimed to cut down on gang violence, racial tension and other issues.
With close to 1,300 students, the program divided the school into four “houses,” each with a vice principal, a secretary and a counselor.
“It really personalized everything,” he said. “You got to know the students well, got to know the parents.”
All the while, Esquivel and his wife thought about moving to the small-town atmosphere of the Carson Valley.
One day his wife called.
“She said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but there’s a position in French at (Douglas) High School and a principal position up at the lake,'” Esquivel said. “I was like, ‘wow, what are the odds?'”
Esquivel said he told his principal at Hug High School that he was applying for the position at Whittell.
Shortly thereafter, he received a call from the district superintendent that he was selected to be the new vice principal at Incline High School.
He said the decision to choose Whittell over Incline was difficult.
“It’s a little scary, moving your family and going to a district where you will be at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said.
The Esquivels have settled into their home in Gardnerville, with Esquivel commuting to work in Zephyr Cove.
The experience at Hug High with the smaller student groups helped prepare him for work at Whittell, which has about 230 students.
Esquivel said he is impressed by the school’s parental involvement as well as the students’ determination and focus.
“There’s this expectation of excellence there,” he said. “Students just know what’s required of them.”
Esquivel noticed it on his first day.
“On the first day of school, I didn’t have to be yelling down the hallways telling people to get to class.”
His first-year goals at Whittell focus on acclimating to the school, studying the test scores and building upon the momentum of his predecessor, Sue Shannon.
“I just want to know the systems and understand how things work before I make any changes; really getting to know the people and allowing them to get to know me and building the trust level. You’ve got to earn it,” he said.