Fernando Valle, EdD
Professor of Educational Psychology, Leadership, and Counseling
College of Education
Fernando Valle believes in the importance of giving back. Growing up as a West Texas migrant student, Valle embraced the strong work ethic that he learned from his family. Their encouragement helped him to remain committed to his studies, which led to his success as a student, teacher, administrator, and professor. In 2008, after a successful career in K12 public education and pursuing his EdD in South Texas, Valle returned to West Texas to teach at Texas Tech. He joined the Department of Educational Psychology, Leadership, and Counseling in the College of Education where he now works with students and other educational leaders to bring positive changes to their communities, particularly in some of the most vulnerable populations.
Tell us about your background and how you became interested in higher education. What brought you to Texas Tech?
“I served in K12 educator roles in South Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley as a science teacher, middle and high school counselor, and principal for 15 years before coming to higher education. The Educational Leadership doctoral program was approved at my regional institution, and I began my doctoral journey with the intention of pursuing the Superintendency. My dissertation chair had a strong influence and encouraged me to apply to faculty positions across the country. She set me up for success by supporting my presentations and collaboration at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and University Council for Educational Administrators (UCEA).
In these higher education spaces, I met faculty who were chairing job searches and was able to share my research and lived experiences as a West Texas migrant student and educator in the borderlands. I met and talked to Texas Tech Educational Leadership faculty, Dr. Sylvia Mendez-Morse, at a UCEA conference and pursued the position at Texas Tech. I was a finalist for the position in the College of Education and when I told my family about the move “back to West Texas” my father gave me a look—“you know what you are doing and what you may be getting into, right?” Yes, but it's different this time Dad, I am coming back to West Texas to work at the university, and with local educators, not only in the fields.”
How does your career in educational leadership provide a platform for your teaching, advising, and research at Texas Tech?
“The role of teacher, advisor, professor/researcher at Texas Tech provides the platform to take students from the beginning of a Master's (with principal certification) and Doctoral dissertation to completion. As future Tech alumni, I can see them make an impact in their educational communities. I have the privilege to work with an awesome team of Educational Leaders who have all been school leaders in their former careers. We bridge research and practice by centering instructional equity and social justice leadership in our principal preparation and doctoral programs. We focus on engaged scholarship that provides real-time research addressing problems of practice and how educational leaders, can teach, advocate, and impact the most vulnerable populations in our schools/organizations.”
Talk about your involvement with educator development grants and how these programs provide opportunities for candidates to be effective leaders in schools and communities.
“Part of the College of Education DNA is to secure grants that engage faculty and educators in the work to improve the training of educators and impact public schools. I have collaborated as a PI with Educational Leadership faculty on over $12 million of U.S. Department of Education funding over the last decade through an i3 Innovation grant. This effort was designed to unclog Algebra as a gatekeeper of student success from middle to high schools across Texas. The Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Federal grant provided the national platform and the research funding to build a principal residency program at Texas Tech to change and improve the way principals are prepared as instructional leaders. Ten years later, the Texas Tech Educational Leadership Principal Fellows residency program continues and was born out of grant research and development. It is now the signature residency program in Texas securing over a million dollars annually in state funding from the Texas Education Agency to fully fund and prepare a state cohort of 20-25 educational leaders.”
Talk about your involvement with national and state leadership organizations and the focus on career paths to prepare students to be the next generation of leaders.
“Working with national organizations in educational leadership like UCEA has provided a network of faculty and doctoral students that continue to examine the field and push the research to keep up with the fast-paced world of education that has changed from a one-to-one experience to a many-to-many learning experience through the internet, social media, and hybrid digital learning. Our next generation of school leaders must possess cultural competence with the population they serve but also with the learning spaces they currently navigate and lead. Preparing them to thrive in online settings as learners at Texas Tech pushes them to engage in hybrid platforms that are now the norm in K12. In these spaces, educational equity is still key for educational leaders. Engaging leaders to be skilled with school data through equity audits reveals emerging bilinguals and special education students, continue to make up a significant population in Texas schools and are the populations most at risk. The next generation of leaders in our master's and doctoral programs must coach and grow the educators they lead to advocate for all students, especially those who often fall through the cracks.”
As you think about your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
“I am most proud of being a West Texas migrant student who rode in a truck caravan from South Texas to West Texas to work in the cotton, sorghum, and onion fields. I learned a strong work ethic from my family who created opportunities for me as a student and professional. Coming back full circle to West Texas as a Texas Tech Educational Leadership College of Education Faculty I can continue the educational dream my parents laid out for their children. I have the privilege to work with superintendents, district leaders, and school principals across the state of Texas, from El Paso to Dallas to Lubbock, and truly impact the principal pipeline in communities through the Principal Fellows residency program we have curated. I am proud to work and serve alongside exceptional Educational Leadership faculty at Texas Tech who are passionate educators and advocates in education.”
What do you enjoy doing outside of Texas Tech?
“I love to travel and experience culture in all of its purest forms. The day-to-day living, language, cuisine, customs, and education in countries around the world. When not planning the next trip, I get my hands dirty in the backyard. I inherited my grandfather's and father's green thumbs. When I moved from south Texas, I missed the citrus, the oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, and the tropical fruit we had in our backyard growing up. I have learned to grow what works well in West Texas, and now have apples, pears, grapes, figs, and peaches in my backyard to keep me busy during the year when not in front of a computer or at Texas Tech.”