A simple question a teacher asked changed her trajectory. And for this reason, Mari Vásquez is adamant about making sure students are aware of options and opportunities available to them.

“The teacher who was influential in my life asked me, ‘Where are you going to college?’” said Vásquez. “That simple question changed things for me because it wasn’t, ‘Should I go to college?’ It was a given, ‘You are going to go, it just a matter of where?’”

Vásquez gets emotional when talking about her educational journey as a first-generation high school and college graduate. She was always a good student but until this teacher crossed her path, nobody had asked her about her post-graduation plans or whether she was planning on going to college.

“It just reinforces the importance of making sure that we give kids options,” she said, “and that we make sure they know they are capable and that they should strive for excellence.”

Striving for excellence was what she learned from her parents, who despite not graduating from high school instilled in her that getting an education was an important part of life. They instilled in her that education is one way to break the poverty cycle.
“I remember sometimes sitting in a classroom and thinking, ‘Are the lights going to be on when we get home? Are we going to have dinner tonight?’” said Vásquez. “I don’t have to worry about that anymore. For that I’m blessed but, that is why I tell kids, ‘You have to get an education because education can do that for all of us.’”

Vásquez obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Western Oregon University and her Master of Science in Education Leadership and Policy from Portland State University.

Vásquez is the new assistant principal at Valor Middle School. She came to WSD from Salem-Keizer School District where she taught Spanish I and II for non-native speakers, Spanish for heritage speakers, Language Arts, ELD and AVID Excel during her last ten years as an educator.

“I would like Valor parents to know that I’m here to serve,” said Vásquez. “I’m so honored to be part of the Woodburn community. I want to do my best to serve their students. Please reach out to me.”

Mari Vásquez