Q&A: The Maine Mustang

After serving as vice principal at Santiago High School, Ryan Maine becomes the new principal of Walnut High School. The Hoofprint sat down with Maine to discuss his new position.

Q: What really stood out about Walnut that made you want to be the principal here?

A: Walnut had a really strong family feel. I’ve always noticed that since I’ve been a student at Diamond Bar. I’ve always noticed that you see the same faces at Walnut High School, like the football coach Glenn Mercer, [who has] been coaching for a long time. The people don’t leave, and to me, that’s a testament of, ‘They enjoy working here.’ There’s not a lot of turnover. I do know a lot of people on the staff and a lot of people that I’ve just known from the district and they always say this: ‘It’s such a great vibe at Walnut High School.’ That’s why I’ve always told myself I would never apply for a principal job unless it was within [Walnut Valley Unified School District] or the school I was at, but I always wanted to be at a place where it has a really good family feel. And not just go after a title. It’s always got to be a good fit. 

Q: What’s your experience outside of being a principal here?

A: When I graduated college, I got a sales job, and I hated it. I wanted something with purpose and I wanted to give back to kids, so I got into coaching and teaching. I taught at Diamond Bar High School from 2007 to 2014. I was a coach and a teacher, so I taught social science and video production. Then I coached football and baseball. Then, I had an opportunity to start my own video production program at Santiago High School in Corona, so I kind of built that from the ground up and left Diamond Bar to go to Santiago for five years. My last three years at Santiago, I was an assistant principal there, where I was overseeing curriculum and discipline and working with parents and communities. When this position opened, it was an opportunity to come back to the district which I wanted to, eventually. Then I applied [for] the job and interviewed, and here we are.

Q: I’ve also noticed that, on Instagram, you’ve been posting a lot more videos.

A: That’s my video production background. You’ll see that I don’t want to be in the picture, I want to make sure that we really highlight all the cool things that our staff does. Having the title of the principal, people are already going to look at me, but I think we have a lot of kids and staff on campus that do some pretty cool things but don’t get recognized. I want to recognize a lot of programs on our campus. There’s so many cool things that we do here, and I think we should recognize that through social media. Media right now is amazing, with the affordability of cameras and social media. Within the first day, I filmed, I went to my office and edited it and I put it on social media that night. We have the capability now to really highlight some cool things in the time that we’re living in, and I think we should take advantage of it. 

Q: What is something special about Walnut, in your eyes?

A: I really love the students here. They’re very personable and say “Hi” to you and make eye contact. To me, I got into education because of the kids. To go to some schools where students don’t like talking to administrators or don’t like talking to their teachers, I don’t like that environment. I would say two things: the kids here are awesome. I mean, every kid’s been awesome. Then, [there’s also] the staff here. I truly believe they really care about kids. 

Q: What do you think the Walnut Way is?

A: The way it started was I started meeting with staff members, and they kept telling me, “That’s the Walnut Way” and I would ask them, “What is the Walnut Way?” They didn’t have an answer. I challenged the staff to think of a one to two sentence answer of what they think the Walnut Way is because it was started back in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. But everyone had different definitions, so I did an experiment. Every time I met with a teacher or a staff member I set up a camera and I said, “Tell me your perception of what the Walnut Way is,” because I wanted to know what it was. A lot of them had very similar answers, which was pretty cool. It could’ve been awful. People could have said, “It means we show up late to work, and we don’t want to be a part of it!” Instead, it was family, kids first, supporting each other, growth and making sure we stay relevant. That gave me an answer of “This is the Walnut Way,” and I want to keep building on that.  And it’s not [as if] this is the way it’s always been done. I don’t want the Walnut Way to be a thing of the past; I want it to be something that will always be moving forward: the values of supporting kids and family feel. If you graduate, I would love for you to come back 10 years from now and see your teachers. We have a lot of staff members, including myself, that went to the schools in this district and want to come back. That’s the Walnut Way to me—the family, the growth, supporting kids and always supporting each other. 

Q: You talk about the Walnut Way and how there are some things that you want to keep the same for the most part. What are some things you hope to change at Walnut?

A: My goals for the staff, which I talked about with them, was to improve communication, to make sure the staff always knows what’s going on, to make sure our staff feels supported; that’s being visible, being there for the guys. Another one was building relationships, and the last one was providing opportunities for growth. For teachers at Walnut, that’s to learn new things, start new programs. I don’t want to be a barrier for our teachers and our students. We want to take it to the next level.

Compiled by Bhalpriya Sandhu, Scene editor
Photo by Tristan Gonzalez