Dr. Raúl Peña

  • Dr. Raúl Peña, hailing from El Paso, proudly celebrates his Mexican-American heritage, which is deeply-rooted in family and traditions. His parents' path to U.S. citizenship and festive customs like Lotería and multicultural holiday feasts wove a rich tapestry of identity in his early life.

    Strong Family Bonds
    Growing up in a tight-knit family, Dr. Peña cherished close relationships with extended family members They instilled family values and a passion for helping others excel. His father, Efren, a finish carpenter, and his mother, Rosa, a hairstylist, provided invaluable support throughout his life. At 96 years old, the elder Peña remains an integral part of his life. Dr. Peña acknowledges their role in helping him overcome life’s challenges.

    A Lifelong Educator
    Dr. Peña’s journey in education began as a teacher, eventually leading him to his role as the Superintendent of Hutto ISD. From 1998 to 2012, he served as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. As a bilingual teacher, he taught 5th grade and 3rd grade Dual Language instruction, emphasizing the importance of creating biliterate students. He recognized the value of the unique gifts students bring to the table, believing that students are assets to be invested in rather than problems to be solved. Bilingualism, according to Dr. Peña, offers students opportunities for increased brain development, as biliterate brains have more connections.

    Education Beyond Standardized Tests
    As an educator, Dr. Peña emphasizes the importance of viewing education beyond standardized tests. While these tests have their place, he advocates for a comprehensive approach that takes into account the meaningfulness of the learning environment and the relationships students build with their teachers. These relationships leave a lasting impact on students' lives, often remembered long after graduation.

    The Power of Teachers
    He fondly recalls the influence of his first grade teacher Ms. Mendoza who was a constant presence in his life. She took the time to understand his interests, even gifting him a wooden dinosaur to construct when she noticed his fascination with dinosaurs. This act of support and encouragement had a profound effect on him and exemplified the importance of attentive and nurturing educators.

    The Courageous Counselor
    In his senior year at Bowie High School in El Paso, Dr. Peña faced uncertainty about his college prospects due to a lack of guidance from his assigned counselor. Another counselor, Ms. Woo, overheard a conversation and stepped in to help him navigate the path to college. Her intervention was life-changing, and Dr. Peña went on to graduate from the University of Texas. Her courageous act exemplifies the kind of dedicated educators who can profoundly influence students' lives.

    A Reminder for Empowerment
    Dr. Peña often reflects on a memorable college experience. At 17 years old, he interviewed for a job in Austin. During the interview, the interviewer asked him what made him so confident and expressive. His response, "Nobody told me otherwise." This experience drives him to ensure that the school district prepares and empowers students to be confident, and boldly pursue their seat at the table of their choice.

    Celebrating Hispanic Heritage
    To Dr. Peña, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultures and traditions of the Hispanic community, not only in Hutto but throughout Texas. He encourages individuals to explore Hispanic literature and delve deep into the meaning of the culture. He views this month as an ideal time for teaching students about different cultures and helping them build their identities while appreciating the uniqueness of their own heritages.

    Embracing All Cultures
    While recognizing and acknowledging Hispanic culture is essential, Dr. Peña believes in embracing all cultures equally. He sees the importance of engaging students in activities that allow them to explore their identities and express their uniqueness. 

    Dr. Raúl Peña's journey from El Paso to Hutto embodies the power of cultural celebration and the significance of embracing diversity. As Superintendent of Hutto ISD, he continues to inspire students to appreciate their own heritages while fostering a deep respect for the cultures of others.