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Angela Ruiz, Ph.D. - Academic Director

Angela Ruiz, Ph.D.

Academic Director

Posted on July 28, 2020

Thirty years ago, Angela Ruiz was a busy young mom with a high school diploma. Today, she’s the Academic Director at Heritage Christian with four degrees under her belt. Angela has seen how God has guided her on her path to Heritage.

"God knew that every place I've ever been would lead me to this moment," she said.

Angela Ruiz-Pearce

Angela grew up a pastor’s kid in northwest Indiana. After she started her own family, she discovered a real interest in the world of education, and also witnessed many problems within the education system.

“I realized I could sit at home and complain about it, or I could do something about it,” she said.

At age 27, Angela enrolled at Purdue University to get a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education; she then taught 2nd grade and 5th grade for 8 years. Several friends encouraged her to look into pursuing leadership positions, so over the next several years, Angela obtained two master’s degrees from Indiana Wesleyan: one in Educational PreK-12 Administration with a Superintendent licensure and one in Math and Science. In addition, Angela completed her Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Educational Leadership at Indiana State University in 2019.

As her children grew older, Angela became a turnaround principal, moving around to failing schools in northern Indiana to save them from closure. Once her children were out of the house, Angela enrolled in a PhD program in Educational Leadership from Indiana State University with the goal of working in curriculum.

It was around this time that Angela felt a strong urge to pursue working in Christian education. She was the only Christian school advocate in her PhD program.

“My passion is to bring both Christ and education to the forefront for students,” she said. “I thought, If that’s really my passion, then I need to exercise it.

Angela worked for two years at Traders Point Christian School, then moved to South Bend to help start a new school. While there, she sensed there was something more for her, so she enlisted the help of friends and colleagues to pray for the Lord’s guidance over her next career move.

Soon after, Angela heard about a new position at Heritage Christian for Director of Curriculum and Academic Innovation.

“I thought, Is this true? Is my dream job opening at Heritage Christian?” said Angela. “I knew that was all part of His plan and His doing.”

So what is Angela doing from day-to-day in this new role?

Though she has an office, she is rarely in it. Most of her days are spent bouncing around preschool through 12th grade classrooms, observing lessons, meeting with teachers in each grade level, and tutoring students in math after school.

“Essentially, my classroom is now filled with teachers and students alike,” she said.

Angela Ruiz-Pearce

Teachers in each grade level work with Angela on a regular basis to discuss best teaching practices, student data, and feedback on her time in their classrooms.

“Heritage teachers are dedicated to improving who they are as educators,” Angela emphasized. “My goal is not to shame or evaluate teachers but to empower each person to be their personal best as an educator. With Christ as our foundation, we are moving the academic teams from good to great.”

Last year, Heritage rolled out a new math curriculum for K-8 classes, so Angela’s primary focus shifted to making sure teachers are equipped and supported to teach it well. Though she serves as an in-house curriculum resource for any questions that arise, she is mainly focused on improving teaching methods.

One way Angela facilitates a low-stress instructional time is by inviting teachers to observe her teach lessons. "Modeling is an important part of coaching," she said. After school hours, Angela will invite a different group of teachers to observe her tutoring a student in math and then discuss the session afterward.

We want to make sure we’re transferring knowledge and not just being deliverers of information.

“I’m really modeling best practices, not how to teach a specific math lesson,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re transferring knowledge and not just being deliverers of information.”

State testing is one part of student evaluation, but Angela stresses that data is a small factor when evaluating who our students are and their academic potential.

"Our goal is to include the whole student's growth – spiritually, academically, physically, and emotionally," she said.

“I’m an advocate for us to really know students,” she said. “Data doesn’t define who our students are, so it should be just one point we use to coach and train our students to become who God created them to be.”

She also understands that students learn differently, so they should also be evaluated in a variety of ways. Small group collaboration is one way teachers can see how each student is doing and prepare him or her for life after school.

“In the real world, evaluation is almost never going to be ‘Can they complete a worksheet?’” she said.

Angela Ruiz-Pearce

While some students work best in a concrete “worksheet world,” many do not; they need to know how to communicate their knowledge in writing, in creative projects, and in healthy debate, especially as believers.

Angela is very excited about her role and has thoroughly enjoyed working with the Heritage teachers.

“Teachers are the heart of learning,” she said. “Their love for learning is contagious. On any given day, I can be welcomed in the classrooms with open arms with teachers and students who are eager to learn. I am blessed to be a part of a work environment that is filled with Christ-centered educators that serve with Christ and scholars in mind.”

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