Raelye Self remembers the day she realized she was meant to teach. It was her very first day of teaching.
“My first day in the classroom I knew that’s where I was meant to be,” she said.
Today, Dr. Self oversees Angelo State University’s online program for certifying superintendents, principals, counselors and teachers. Owing to its quality and affordability, the program has drawn 1,200 students from across the globe.
Self’s path into teaching was admittedly “unconventional.” She earned two degrees in agricultural fields. Shortly after, a friend suggested she apply for a job teaching computer programs at Lake View High School. Her hiring was “divine intervention.”
Later, her principal, Matt Smith, and then-Superintendent Carol Ann Bonds encouraged her to pursue a master’s degree in school administration. Smith gradually assigned her more responsibility to grow her leadership skills. That led to assistant principal jobs, then a principal’s post, and finally to ASU.
She feels a “huge responsibility” to help prepare educators to impact students, who in turn will impact their communities.
“I can’t teach someone everything about being a principal,” she said. “But I can certainly lay a solid foundation for them to build on.”
One supporter said Self has a knack for making people feel “like the most important person in the room.” (To which Self responded, “Aww!”) She also said Self is slow to speak but “commands the presence of the room” when she does.
Both are conscious efforts.
“The leaders who were the most impactful for me always made me feel valued, like my voice meant something,” she said. “That’s always stuck with me.”
Quiet by nature, Self added that she prefers to listen and observe.
“There’s a lot to learn when we open our ears and eyes, and we close our mouths,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from people who have walked the path before me. They have a lot to say. I just want to soak it all up.”
As expected, Self’s long list of civic efforts revolves mostly around children. Two recent endeavors are her service on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club and the JPW Learning Center, which serves students with learning disabilities.
“No matter how young you are, you can cultivate leadership and community service,” she said. “I understand how important that is, but it starts at a young age. It’s critical to me to help the youth in our community realize that.”
Other service efforts revolve around her faith, which she said is “at the core of what I believe and what I do.”
“Our beliefs and our passions drive us,” Self said. “There’s a reason we are where we are and we do what we do. Leaning on that drives me.”
While urging others to build their “leadership legacy,” she reminds that leadership is not a power play.
“It’s about enabling other people, giving them the opportunity to see the potential for themselves,” Self said. “Leadership is not about that person. It’s about everyone else.”