Meet Nancy Link, mother of four and school principal  

Source:  Tracy Press, Oct. 27, 2007

• Years in Tracy: 25
• Principal at Central Elementary School for four years
• Family: Clint, 27, Kyle “Coyote”, 23, Cole, 19, and Kierra, 16
• Her motto: “Have a heart full of love and a backbone of integrity.” 

Principal Nancy Link leaned back with a sigh of accomplishment behind her impeccably organized desk at Central Elementary School this week after coordinating school assemblies, dishing out treats for students who participated in the week’s dress-up days and following up a few disciplinary issues with teachers and parents.

And that’s just a day’s work.

Her morning begins at about 6:30 to allow time to pack lunches and rush one of her four children to Tracy High School and two to Hawkins Elementary School before she pulls into her reserved parking spot at Central Elementary.

“I love my life,” Link said with a grin. “Kids energize me.”

At age 7, Link, who grew up in Napa, set her heart on working as a veterinarian, and by age 9, she planned to one day attend University of California, Davis.

She followed her heart to UC Davis, where she earned a degree in animal science before she discovered she didn’t have the grades in science to make the cut at a veterinarian school. So, she took what she thought would be a temporary job as a third-grade teacher in Fairfield.

After work one day, she went home to announce to her mother, “I’m going to be a principal.”

Link earned her teaching credential before she taught science at a private high school in Mountain View and then moved to Los Altos Hills to teach middle school. In 1990, she took a job as a math and science teacher at Monte Vista Middle School, where she taught for nine years.

She earned her master’s degree and administration credential in 1998 during a couple of her children’s most active years. She balanced books on her knees to study in the bleachers at her children’s games, and she attended classes in Manteca two nights a week and every other weekend.

Link worked as an assistant principal at Monte Vista for five years and then at North School for a year before she became principal at Central Elementary two years ago.

She credits her success in the master’s program to the support of her mother, Kay Morgan, her children and her ex-husband, Joe Link, who lives two blocks from her home and shares custody of their four children.

“It was never an option to not be a principal,” she said. “I want my children to know they must always follow their dream, like I did mine.”

Our Town: What are some of the challenges of being a single mom of four?

Nancy Link: I’d say the challenges are being there for each one of my kids day to day. We do dinnertimes and reading together, but I want them to be able to talk to me about anything. At bedtime, I try to spend time talking individually with each one in their rooms. They like that. It is time awake past their bedtimes, and I like hearing what is going on with them.

The challenge that is sometimes there is that I’m just flat-out too tired to visit with each of them. Usually, they will call out asking me to go to their rooms if I don’t go!

Another challenge is just scheduling, so luckily, I am organized. My children are very active. Up until last year, all three boys played football and baseball. Right now, we are juggling Cole in Tracy Raiders (he does basketball and baseball also), Kyle “Coyote” in drum lessons and clubs and Kierra in Brownies and gymnastics (she also does softball). Clint works and even he does softball!

My children know they are expected to be at their sister’s or brothers’ games whenever possible. We all go to the games or dance recitals or whatever. They are asked to support each other.

OT: What are some of the new teaching strategies at Central Elementary?

Link: The teachers here are so very dedicated to our students’ success. We received the high-priority grant last year and are focusing on instructional strategies, including Explicit Direct Instruction, Nancy Fetzer Writing, Datateams and ExCEL.

We are learning so much about how best to help students learn. Teachers are also doing homework and pushing themselves. It is exciting, but change is also a challenge.

Central Elementary staff knows how firmly I believe that all of our children can learn and must learn — no excuses! The teachers here are amazing professionals who are doing what they need to do to ensure success for our students.

OT: What would surprise most people to hear about you?

Link: I think people would be surprised to hear that even with all the children at school and at home, I could have a houseful of kids and be very happy. Also, I think those who know me think “Gone With the Wind” is my favorite movie, but I think now it is actually “Open Range.” I love the ending of that movie, and I’m a hopeless romantic.

OT: Throughout your 22 years in education, what are you most proud of?

Link: Personally, I am proud that my children saw how hard I worked to get my master’s degree and administrative credential. For example, I would sit at their football games and when Clint played offense, I would watch him, then read my text while defense was on the field.

Professionally, I feel proud when former students come over, give me a hug and tell me how they are and that I had an impact on their lives. As an educator, I don’t think anything beats that!

OT: How do you mix being a single mom and a principal to almost 500 kids?

Link: I am just lucky that I love being around children! I think they are fun. Actually, when Superintendent Jim Franco hired me for this position, he told me my children would get to know Central Elementary School well. He was right!

They come to activities here and are frequently with me here on weekends or evenings as I work. They understand that my job is very important to me and that I care about the children and staff here.





In the Spotlight

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