One reason John Paramo — the new principal at John Burroughs High School — feels he can understand teenagers is because he considers himself a child at heart.
“Most parents say, ‘How can you deal with teenagers?' For me, it's a piece of cake. I love the same music they like. I'm into the same things,” he said.
It's the elementary school crowd, to which his 8-year-old son belongs, that puzzles him more, he added.
Among high schoolers, when Paramo sees something that catches his attention, he'll stop a student and say something like: “Dude, I love those kicks you got on.”
“It just takes that one time that you make that connection. They remember you,” he said.
When Paramo was in high school at Don Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead, every teacher knew his name and called him by name at lunch, even if he wasn't in that teacher's class.
“School was very safe. School was very personal,” he said. “It made a difference in how I was able to achieve in the classroom. I wanted every other kid to experience what I did when I was in Bosco Tech.”
Upon graduation, Paramo, 45, worked in advertising before earning a degree in English at Whittier College, and later a master's in English at Cal State Los Angeles. He went on to earn a master's degree in education at Azusa Pacific University.
He taught English at Don Bosco for 10 years and worked for Baldwin Park Unified before an assistant principal job surfaced at Burbank Unified.
He spent a combined five years there as assistant principal of counseling and instruction, then was an assistant principal at John Muir Middle School for two years before returning to Burroughs this year.
“I can tell you Burbank Unified represents my own beliefs and philosophies in education and that's what kept me here,” he said. “The district takes a very concerted effort to address populations that need more assistance,” pointing to English-language learners and students with special needs.
Paramo believes in building relationships that last. For instance, this week, after a former Burroughs student heard that Paramo had returned, the student walked into Paramo's office and asked if Paramo still had his picture. Paramo did, three years after the student graduated.
This year, as budget cuts weigh heavily on staff, Paramo said he's focused on inspiring teachers to remain “very positive and hopeful that things are going to work out, and they're going to work out OK.”
“I very much feel that John Burroughs is home for me,” he said.
“In the back of my mind, I'd always hoped that the stars would align and I'd be able to be principal here. I'm going to enjoy it for as long as I can.”
Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellymcorrigan.