Education always seemed like a natural career path for Angel Reyna.
In high school, the future vice president of instruction for Renton Technical College often finished his assignments before his classmates and helped talk them through concepts that came easily to him.
As the son of immigrants who labored as farmworkers in the Yakima and Skagit valleys, Reyna found that attending school felt like a welcome break from working in the fields. A lot of the subjects — except math, he said, smiling — just clicked. To some degree, his background pushed him to pursue a teaching degree.
Reyna, 40, watched some of his friends drop out and join gangs or start working to try to lift themselves out of poverty.
“For me, that was one of the reasons I wanted to be a teacher: to come back and be a role model and give back to the community,” he said.
While earning his bachelor’s degree at Washington State University, Reyna focused on becoming a high school history teacher, but segued into higher education after teaching in the Yakima Valley for two years, and returning to WSU to obtain his master’s degree. He knew he wanted to get into administration, because that’s where he’d make the biggest difference, and he was encouraged by professors to go into post-secondary education.
Nearly a decade later, in 2015, he joined Renton Technical College and now oversees all instruction for the college’s 52 associate’s degrees, 90 certificates, and its bachelor of applied science degree. He’s proudest of the Guided Pathways program the college began planning a couple years ago, which is slowly coming to fruition. The program will streamline the college’s programs, so students can glance at the overarching programs and select the specific path they want to follow. It’s an all-encompassing project meant to simplify students’ experiences from start to finish. Reyna’s also proud of the new diversity, equity, and inclusion council the school developed and is just getting off the ground.
Sometimes, Reyna said, he misses being in the classroom, and witnessing that “a-ha” moment students have when they understand a concept. But being in higher education is so rewarding, he said, and he gets to help shape students’ career paths.
Turn the page to see how this educator turned administrator spends his day.
I’ve been up for half an hour when I make eggs and a peanut butter and banana sandwich with chocolate milk for breakfast.
I arrive at Renton Technical College and walk into Building I, the administration building, where my office is located.
First things first: I brew a pot of coffee while I wait for my computer to wake up. I typically work on emails and any other items I need to address before my morning meetings.
I meet with the instructional deans and directors to discuss items that have come up the previous week, and address any potential questions or concerns.
Emails are always piling up, so between meetings I check my messages and grab a quick bite to eat, usually a sandwich.
I meet with our director of grant development, Marta Burnett, to discuss the status of our current grants, and any potential grants we may want to look at in the future.
Mo Abdullahi, a computer science student and national Phi Theta Kappa student winner, comes to our office to discuss his recent trip to New Orleans with our president, Kevin McCarthy, and me.
When I get home from the office, I take some time to sit down for a bit to unwind and watch sports coverage before working out.
I squeeze in an at-home workout with some free weights and a bar. Most days, my 10-month-old son, Noah, acts as my spotter.
Dinner lately has been a banana protein shake, which is part of my healthier diet. It seems to be working, because I have lost 15 pounds in the last two months.
I’m taking online classes through Northeastern University for my doctoral degree. Most of my evenings are spent doing homework so I can finish my coursework this summer.
Noah and I play together in bed. All the activity helps tire him out so the rest of the family can have a restful night’s sleep.
Photos courtesy Angel Reyna