Rising to a Leadership Challenge
Patient Ambassador Beth Hinojosa
Vectra Patient Ambassador Beth was already having a challenging year. In her first year working as Assistant Vice Principal, she never anticipated being asked to step into the Principal’s role midway through the year.
“It was so unexpected, but I felt it was meant to be,” she said. Coming back from her winter break into her new role, Beth described the time as “a bit of a whirlwind,” but one that felt right. “It gave me great satisfaction to know that I was equipped to step up for my community and my school.”
While navigating her new role and dealing with insurance issues that made it difficult for her to receive her RA medication for several weeks, Beth began settling in and finding her rhythm while keeping her own family and three kids on track with all of their extracurricular activities.
By March, she found her groove…and then, things shifted again. The superintendent of her school district, working with the local Department of Health, mandated a transition to out-of-school teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a busy week. We shut school to the students for one week while having the teachers come in to strategize our plans and bring them up to speed on online learning strategies. The range of ability in terms of technology was fairly wide – we had teachers who barely logged into their email, to teachers who were comfortably using technology in their classrooms long before,” said Beth.
“I had begun working with the technology teacher before we received word from the superintendent because I saw what was happening in Italy, and we knew we could face some of the same issues. Our school has such a strong sense of community. We felt it was our responsibility to prepare in advance – not only to maintain the academic rigor our parents and students have come to expect, but also to maintain and deepen our connection with each other.”
It wasn’t easy. “Everyone had my cell phone number, and I was committed to answering it 24/7, as were many of the teachers. Even teachers who were less technologically advanced found themselves answering questions about logging in or accessing the remote tools that were available.” At the same time, Beth coordinated parents to pick up their students’ belongings through a schedule and logistical set-up that enabled distancing for the normally very social families of the school.
“This was a time when I had to put thoughts of myself aside. Of course I had my own concerns about the virus, particularly as an RA patient who is immunocompromised, but I could see that the teachers I was leading were looking to me to set the tone, and I knew that I had to be strong for them, which also helped me stay strong for myself.”
Once everyone was online and the curriculum was up and running, Beth found herself still in motion. “Tragically, our third-grade teacher had to be out due to a death in the family unrelated to the pandemic.” Beth found herself on the spot again, filling in for the third-grade teacher, with all of the teaching materials in the now-closed school building. “Thankfully, my son is in third grade, and as principal, I’m pretty on top of what’s going on in the different classes. I grabbed his books and was able to deliver the lessons—although it did feel a bit surreal to be teaching from my bedroom with my son, who is part of the class, at my side.”
One week into it, Beth felt exhausted but exuberant. “It was so inspiring and powerful to see the way our school community came together. When this is all over, I think all of us—both within and beyond our community here in Texas—will find new ways to work together and inspire each other to what we never thought possible.”
“Taking care of myself, especially by making sure my RA disease activity and inflammation is under control, helps me be ready for situations like this when they arise in my life and my career. I feel confident knowing my level of inflammation from my recent Vectra Score.”