Principal Spotlight: Ms. Barrera and Her Mission Towards Education for All

October is a time when we recognize the outstanding leaders of our campuses- our principals.

This month, we got the chance to hear from Principal Mariela Barrera of IDEA Bluff Springs Academy in our Austin region.

We caught up with her to hear more about what inspired her to become a teacher and then eventually pursue becoming a principal. Here is her story:

“What made you want to become a teacher?”

Education is deeply rooted in my family. I grew up in the valley where I was raised by my grandmother, who had immigrated with her family from Mexico. Growing up, my grandmother was disabled, had significant gaps in her education, and didn’t really understand or speak English. She was the person who really pushed me to pursue education.  She raised me and because I saw how there were no opportunities for her because of her upbringing, education became my mission. I remember wanting to do so many things after school like clubs and activities, but I couldn’t. My mother was in college and my grandmother couldn’t drive so I couldn’t do any of that.  

Many students who grow up in similar family dynamics and backgrounds experience missing out on extracurricular activities after school, Barrera shared. From responsibilities at home to not having access to other programs, she wanted to become an educator who would provide those extra opportunities for her students throughout the day.

Before IDEA, she taught at several school districts in the Rio Grande Valley. With over 40% of her students being recent immigrants, it didn’t take long for her to notice the gaps in accessibility. Barrara proudly led a team that translated all the science department’s curriculum and assessments for the entire school district, resulting in better testing score averages.


She then joined the IDEA family in 2015, continuing her love for teaching science at IDEA McAllen.

“What made you eventually come to IDEA?”

I had a friend who said amazing things about them. She explained their mission for College for All and that really aligned with my own vision. I knew from my interview that this is the place to be.

Three years into teaching with IDEA, Barrera applied to be an Assistant Principal of Instruction. Hesitant about leaving the classroom, she felt she needed to push herself professionally and challenge herself to do something different. She instantly fell in love with the coaching aspect of this role and felt that proper coaching resulted in more positive impacts on students.

Barrera completed her Principal in Residency Program and found herself as the new principal at IDEA Bluff Springs Academy for the 2020-21 school year.

“You were exceeding in your role as a teacher, what makes you then want to transition into becoming a principal?”

 I wanted those same results I was getting as a teacher but on a much larger scale. I wanted my efforts to not just be for the students I was teaching directly but for all students on campus.

Principal Barrera’s goal for this 2023-24 school year is to focus on the happiness of her students and ensure they are attending classes every day.

Are you ready to join our team? Apply now to take part in our mission of College for All by visiting us at IDEA Public Schools Careers

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