The new principal at Templeton Elementary School didn’t have to move her desk supplies too far. As assistant principal and guidance counselor at Templeton Middle School, she was kitty-corner to her new position. Mrs. Renee Argain is quite a package: She’s been an elementary teacher, an assistant principal, and middle school counselor. She’s a principal ‘in the know’ – a mother of a TMS 7th grade middle schooler, Brianne, and a fourth grader, Nate, at Vineyard, so she’s hip on the latest youtube videos, computer games and the best rides at the Ravine. That makes for good conversations with students on campus.
The school had much love for Mrs. Jill Southern, the former principal, but the new principal is in a class of her own.
An extremely tailored education has led up to this dream job she wanted for years. Argain taught one year in fourth grade and eight years teaching first. In the early 2000’s she became a high school counselor, a job she kept for eight years. Now she’s ready to lead Templeton Elementary, keeping the students safe and engaged, motivated and supported.
“My staff is exceptional and I trust in them so much,” said Argain. Keeping up the Gold Ribbon standard is one of her goals as the new principal, and she plans to foster good communication with the community. She is bringing in a passion for starting college and career exposure as early as possible, and she would like to continue the fine arts in tact at TES.
“I think that’s so important. We’re so lucky to have art for children. Our music. Our drama… I want to keep those extra enrichment pieces in place because I think they’re just as important as academic pieces,” she said.
“I feel that this is just a very special place,” Argain said. “And I knew when I was an elementary school teacher that one day, being an elementary school principal would be awesome to do later in my career. Seeing those little faces and being such a part of that growing experience academically and socially just made me put my laser focus on going through the right channels to be an administrator and ultimately, the principal of an elementary school.”
She’s in her happy place, in a school with top rate teachers and expert staff. To welcome Argain over from the Middle School, her new staff decorated the office shelf with rainbows and unicorns to remind her she’s back in elementary ages, where love and moonbeams are still part of the curriculum.
“I just feel so lucky and blessed to be here,” Argain said, mentioning she likes to see people from town out and about at sporting events, parades, and local stores. “I feel very welcomed. Everyone has been just awesome, helpful, and encouraging and it’s just really fun to be in a place where I feel families and guardians still truly cherish the small town feeling and communication and having really good social relationships. I think that’s really important, and I think that’s what gets lost a little bit in bigger cities.”
Argain came to live in SLO County and work as an assistant principal and guidance counselor at Templeton Middle School three years ago from Modesto, where she was working as a K-6 administrator. She has been enjoying the hiking, tennis and ocean air. She is a lover of the color red, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, ice cream and Mexican Food. She is quite the dedicated worker, and aside from running an entire school, she wakes up at half past four each day to get in a stress-relieving workout before work. Her family, including her realtor husband, Brian, likes to tease her when she goes to bed at eight at night.
Her hobbies are spending time with her family, shopping, playing tennis and pickleball, and travel. She loves going out to dinner and trying new restaurants. Her husband is dabbling in the wine business. She finds it endearing that her husband wants to try something so new.
Argain was born and raised in Sacramento, as part of a large Hispanic family, and she attended an all-girls high school before attending CSU Sacramento for a BA in Communications. She went on to earn a multiple subject credential/CLAD from Chapman University in 2003. A few key mentors encouraged Argain to pursue the educational administrator path and a shortage of counselors at the time helped her consider the counseling path. She earned a Personal Pupil Services Credential and a Masters of Arts in Counseling from the University of La Verne along with a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential.
“My teachers counsel their students all the time. I think having that master’s degree really comes into play a lot for the social/emotional piece – the character building. I think it also comes into play for the academic piece. Even though I work with a lot of five and six and seven-year-olds, it’s always good to talk about the future, and as they do academic projects and learn different jobs that are associated with science or math and STEM of course, like we’re doing at the high school. It’s never too early to talk about the future.” She said she is interested in learning the student’s likes and dislikes, regardless if they know what they want to be when they ‘grow up.’
“Getting their interests and exposing them to everything really gives them just a clean and early look at where they’re going in the future,” she said. With all her experience, from elementary teaching to middle school to high school, Argain has a unique perspective on the future of these bright students. She’s talked confidentially to more students than one can count, and has seen, first hand, that each child is an individual with very different needs, and she feels it is the administrator’s duty to support that. “Recognizing… college isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. But they need to have a goal of some sort. Whether it’s military, if it’s culinary school, if it’s cosmetology school, if it’s agriculture — whatever it is — I just want them to have some type of goal and trade that they’re going to enjoy and maybe other things will fall into place as time goes on, but something that they’re going to enjoy once they walk the stage and ultimately get their diploma.”
As far as this year’s challenges, she believes her teachers are amazing, but they have much to fit into one day. Argain wishes she could give her teachers more time to get through what they need and want to do in their classrooms, without leaving any students behind who need more help, but also not holding back those who are ready to strive further.
“I feel their biggest challenge is having enough time to get through what they need to get through. The Common Core is awesome. I think it has exceptional components to it. But it could be quite in depth.”
Argain wants to support her teachers without disturbing the enrichments and the extracurricular things that are just as important.
As far as student challenges, Argain supports more counseling. “We’re fortunate to have a full-time counselor at our site. We have Dr. Meece. She’s fantastic.” There is also an outside contractor, the Community Counseling Center, that the school refers to students.
“I think counseling is important,” said Argain, who sees the importance of social, guided groups like the ‘Lunch Bunch,’ a social group that helps students with anxiety, friendships, and other emotional topics. She said her counselors help with everything from holding talks at assemblies to talking about the loss of a grandparent to working through divorce. “I wish we had more funding for that,” she said, noting the extra help has been invaluable for students with Independent Educational Plans (IEPs) and learning disabilities.
For parents and guardians, Argain has plenty of sage advice. She encourages non-English Speaking caregivers to take advantage of the translators on staff and more sharing in the student’s educational experience.
“My best advice is to always ask questions. Always be involved in your child’s education, whether it be face to face, or via email. Whatever the best way to communicate is, it’s always important to ask questions. Ask for advice. Share information. That’s always so helpful. Know that we are confidential. We want the best thing for your student… never hesitate to reach out.”
Argain is hopeful for the school year and the district she has found a place in.
The best thing happening in education right now locally, Argain said, “is our community, and our stakeholders. We are so fortunate to have buy-in from our school board, our superintendent, our parents, our business owners, our local supervisors like John Peschong, Jordan Cunningham...Dr. Brescia, our county superintendent. I think we’re just so lucky to have those figures that are supporting Templeton Unified schools. Knowing that we could literally call them at any moment and talk to them personally… is beyond amazing.”