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Gustafson Steps Up


After a varied career in teaching, Rachel Gustafson has stepped up as Paso Robles High School’s new Assistant Principal, joining the ranks of Stuart Hamil, Gerald Braxton, and Michael Godsey. She replaces Jennifer Dineen in this position and brings a love of student success with qualifications in teaching English, journalism and music studies.

Gustafson’s first day was January 18, 2022 but education has been a part of her journey for nearly all of her life. After graduating from Bakersfield Christian HS in 2005, she went on to attend college at Azusa Pacific University, where she majored in music education and performance. 

Her background in the performing arts runs deep: Gustafson first began piano at age five, and as she grew, so did her love of music. She describes learning new instruments and singing in her adolescence, an avid participant in band and choir in high school and college, as well as dance in her high school years. 

Her original plan at university was to major in Biology with intentions of going into the health care field, but it didn’t click readily as she expected. Her journey to teaching is a realistic, steady progression towards understanding rather than a single moment of realization. “I decided to try to get involved in something over in the music department as something fun to see if that helps me feel better about my life,” she said. “And I got hooked back into it again.” 

Summarized timeline of Gustafson’s journey so far.

With that, she changed majors, and her teaching career was born. “I just thought… (it) might be fun,” she said, “Then, it grew on me to the point that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else by the time I graduated.”

Gustafson earned both a bachelor’s and master’s from Azusa Pacific University.

She wasn’t alone through her academic endeavors, though: Gustafson’s last year of undergrad was permeated by the birth of her now 12-year old son, a bright spot through the slough of college work and “her biggest inspiration.” 

“I was now raising a tiny human and I had to do my best for him (and) knowing that I had a purpose aside from just going to school really inspired me. And it still does,” she said, then laughed. “Keeps me on my toes, though. That’s for sure.”

Her teaching career started with a job at her alma mater high school, Bakersfield Christian, where she taught English and music. She moved to teaching kindergarten through eighth grade music in the Central Valley from 2014-2017. Then, she taught at Coast Unified School District in Cambria, where versatility was key due to the district’s smaller size, with about 500 students compared to Paso’s almost 7000.

“In a small district like that, everyone has to wear lots of hats,” she said, and indeed she did. At CUSD, Gustafson was part of ASB Leadership, the newspaper and yearbook classes, taught English as well as band and choir, in addition to theater as an after school extracurricular. 

This variety prepared her for her next job here in Paso Robles as assistant principal, her first administrative job after receiving a second master’s at Cal Poly in Educational Leadership.

On the surface level, Paso was a reasonable choice, with a nice commute and even nicer sunsets, but the final decision came down more than that. 

“I interviewed for a couple other jobs, too,” Gustafson said. “And when I walked into the interview here, everyone was extremely welcoming and kind and I instantly felt comfortable. Normally, I get a little nervous with job interviews (but here) that didn’t happen. I kind of took that as a sign, so when they offered me the job, I said, ‘Yes.’”

Currently, Gustafson’s duties include supervising students during breaks, discipline matters, overseeing the 12th grade, coordinating the ELD program, and more. 

“Every day is different, with different challenges to overcome and different tasks to finish,” she said. She describes the best part of her job as those times where she gets to go into a classroom and observe as an outside party while the teachers bring their subjects to life through their passion and dedication. 

“Every day is different, with different challenges to overcome and different tasks to finish.”

Rachel Gustafson

With interest in the educational field dwindling, Gustafson is the kind of fresh face needed in schools, with goals of positively impacting more students and “personal growth” driving her to pursue an admin job.

Lindsey Soto in her office. Soto and Gustafson both work with the 12th grade.

And though she hasn’t been here for long, it seems that Gustafson is already on her way to accomplishing these: Current co-worker and 12th grade counselor Lindsey Soto describes her as “empathetic, passionate, (and) diligent… one of the most amazing people to work with (and a) great teammate.”

From one of their first one-on-ones, Soto could tell Gustafson was a match for Paso: “We were discussing some of our kind-of high flier cases and her responses were so aligned to mine in our passion for student success that I was like, in love,” she said. 

Similarly, 12th grade PRHS student Alexa Wagoner notes as far as first impressions go, Gustafson has made the grade. 

“She seems really understanding and open-minded when it comes to what the students are talking about and what they’re feeling. (When we met) she actually listened to my voice and I really like that,” Wagoner said. 

This note-worthy addition to staff is just beginning her career at PRHS and the future looks bright: she definitely has more hats to come, and all signs point to her wearing them well.  

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About the Contributor
Kalani Gaviola
Kalani Gaviola, Editor-in-Chief
Kalani Gaviola, senior, is one of the Editor-in-Chiefs of Crimson Newsmagazine, as well as co-InDepth Director. This is her second year as Editor-in-Chief and InDepth Director, and her third year in Crimson. Outside of Crimson, she is a varsity Cross Country and Track athlete, ASB Staff and Student Director, and an enjoyer of creative writing, reading, and drawing.
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