Sitting on the front porch of Blue House Bakery and Cafe on Canyon Street, Rita London, retired long-time principal of Eddy and Sunset Elementary Schools, looks right at home.
Her blue and white top blends seamlessly with the royal blue building and matched cushions of the porch chairs. Her eyes twinkle behind sparkling frames and her sunny smile adds to the warm spring morning. She waves “hello” to several women seated on the patio enjoying morning coffee, then bids, “good morning” to a man entering the cafe. Rita leans in and whispers, “I taught his two girls in elementary school.”
“As a principal, you’re a teacher of teachers. In a classroom you affect sometimes as many as 25 students, but as a principal, you’re affecting 300-400 students a year.”
In 2002, Rita’s school at the time, Sunset Elementary, won the international “Inviting School Award.” The spirit of the award centers upon creating a warm, inviting environment for learning and professional development. No one wants to attend a school that doesn’t welcome its students, staff, and parents. Invitational learning rests on four main principles of care: trust, respect, optimism, and intention. Surely a recipe for any warm, successful space! She and 16 of her staff members raised money for all of their plane tickets, lodging, and conference fees to reach Atlanta, GA through a series of garage sales and fundraising events.
Rita remembers this time of leadership in her career very fondly. “As a principal, you’re a teacher of teachers. In a classroom you affect sometimes as many as 25 students, but as a principal, you’re affecting 300-400 students a year.” Rita was the second female principal of a school in the Carlsbad school district. She boasts 9 years of teaching experience and 29 years of experience in the office of a school principal. She laid the foundation for hospitality in her schools by modeling the invitational learning style for which she was awarded; warm smiles, friendly “hellos,” and an attitude of “let’s work together in education.”
She’s a self-professed life-long learner and an avid practitioner of community involvement. A strong sense of curiosity and civic mindedness prompts her involvement in Christian Women’s Club at First Baptist and her 32 year membership with Carlsbad’s Rotary Club. She’s also served on the board for the United Way, Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and Carlsbad Character Counts. After a life of professional and community service to Carlsbad, Rita plans to spend the next phase of her retirement traveling with her sister, Mary Alice, from her new home in Lubbock, TX. As she begins her latest adventure, Rita’s advice to the community comes straight from her educator’s heart: teach cursive handwriting and memorization of multiplication tables to third graders. She adds, “don’t forget to incorporate the arts — music, performance, theatre, and fine arts.”
Carlsbad wishes Rita all the very best on her next adventure! Thank you for your service!
Article originally published in Focus on Carlsbad 2020 Spring edition.