Soraya Villaseñor was not planning on education as a profession.
The daughter of an elementary school teacher, Villaseñor aspired to become a politician as an undergrad majoring in history and political science at UCLA.
But after she graduated in 1999, she found only entry-level positions available at government offices.
So her teacher mother suggested she work as a substitute teacher in the meantime.
"She's like, 'At least sub while you find something that you really want to do,'" Villaseñor recalled.
Villaseñor turned in her application to the principal at Highland Elementary School in Inglewood. To her surprise, the principal offered her a full time job as a second grade teacher.
"I was like, 'But I have no idea what to do with kids,'" Villaseñor said. "Some people who want to be a teacher, they take child development classes or they're liberal arts majors, (but) I had none of that. Quite the opposite, I was like, 'I am not going to be a teacher.'"
Nonetheless, she decided to give it a try and "fell in love."
Nearly 20 years after getting her first teaching job, Villaseñor was appointed the new principal of Valley View Elementary in May, replacing Rafael Cruz who retired in June. It's her first principal job and second as an administrator after serving as a vice principal for a year at Junction Ave K-8 School in Livermore.
Villaseñor, 40, grew up in Inglewood where gangs, drugs and violence were prevalent. Seeing that, her parents had her attend private school in Marina Del Rey instead of the neighborhood public schools.
"I think that's why politics was really calling me -- I felt there was so much that needed to be changed," she said.
Her mother always worked in education and was employed as a teacher in Mexico, but because her credentials didn't transfer upon moving to the United States she didn't become a teacher here until she was 43. With Villaseñor's father on disability and unable to work, her mother worked two jobs while in school and raising four kids.
"She was a phenomenal teacher, just because she cared so much," Villaseñor said. "But she worked so hard. I think a lot of people go into teaching thinking 'Oh it's easy,' ... but I think because I saw it day in and day out and how much it consumed her as a kid I was like, 'Enough already.' But sure enough, as soon as I started, I realized what she had seen for so many years -- the difference one person can make in a child's life."
Villaseñor added her mother "has always been a big cheerleader of mine."
"She calls me all the time, 'How's it going?' and tries to make sure I remember why I'm here," she said. "She's always my go-to."
Villaseñor moved away from home in 2001 to attend UC Berkeley, where she earned her master's in education and teaching credential. After that she taught at elementary schools in Fremont and went back to school to get her administration credential. In 2014 she moved to Junction Ave, where she worked as a Spanish dual-language teacher before becoming a vice principal last year.
"Going into admin, I saw the little girls I taught and don't think they had role models; I don't think they ever had a principal who was a female Latina so I was like, 'I want them to see that it is possible,'" she said. "I always told my students, 'You're very capable of doing what you want,' but I put it to action. I said, 'I grew up in Inglewood, I had hardships, but I did it.'"
A Livermore resident, Villaseñor knew Pleasanton well before coming to PUSD. Her husband Dan Villaseñor is a recreation supervisor for the city, so she's been accustomed to bringing their children to events he's involved with.
She says Valley View's dual immersion program was a big draw for her.
"I looked into Valley View and the dynamics, the diversity of the school ... I was like, 'This is the school to work at,'" she said.
So far Villaseñor has been working to get to know the Valley View community.
"One of the things I try to bring is positivity," she said. "If we have a positive mindset, so much more can be accomplished."
When Villaseñor isn't at school, she's likely to be found watching her kids -- who are 9, 10 and 12 -- play sports. She also enjoys traveling with her family.
Villaseñor earns an annual salary of $127,143 as principal of Valley View Elementary, located at 480 Adams Way.