Benitez embraces new role

Rafael Benitez became the associate principal in 2021. He started off as a middle school English teacher and athletic coach at Bunger Middle School in Waterloo from 2016 to 2021. “It was hard adjusting to working at a high school for the first time and going from working at a school with 500 students to 1,300,” Benitez said. He said it was also challenging being an English teacher back then while trying to balance coaching three sports, working full-time and going to graduate school—all during the Covid pandemic.

“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had and yet this is the most satisfying job I have ever had,” Benitz said. The demand for this job is very high, but “I feel with my supporting cast here and at home, I am able to do my job well. While the job demands much of me, the benefits and compensation allow me to take care of my family, which is a high priority for me. I am grateful to be in the position that I am in.”

There are only 1,170 principals in Iowa and a total of 1,3100 schools, so principals are in demand.

“I always had an interest in being a principal since I was in high school, but I was not encouraged to pursue this path until I went into graduate school,” Benitez said.  Dr. Tim Gilson at UNI was his adviser, and when the job at Cedar Falls opened up, Gilson, along with Benitez’s wife, gave him the encouragement to not only apply for this job but actually instill the belief that he could be selected for this job.  

“I have all students with the last name M-Z, so I can see quite a bit of students on any given day.” On a day-to-day basis, Benitez looks at attendance, and behavior infractions, responds to emails, goes to meetings and supervises the cafeteria during power hour. He also contacts families every day and meets with the counselors, instructional coaches and the administrative team consistently.

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