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Debbie Diaz-Arnold Named New Principal at Miller Elementary School

At the May 13 Fauquier County School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. David Jeck introduced Debbie Diaz-Arnold as the new principal of Grace Miller Elementary School effective July 1. After serving as assistant principal at P.B. Smith Elementary for the past two years, Diaz-Arnold will take over from Principal Bruce McDaniel, who announced last month he would be retiring. Diaz-Arnold will be the first Hispanic female school principal in FCPS.

Ms. Diaz-Arnold used one word to describe her reaction to being selected as principal of Miller exhilaration!

She explained, “Each position I’ve held in the field of education has been the best job ever. If people asked when I was a teacher, I would answer this is the best job ever, as a teacher leader, no, this is the best job ever, as an AP, this is the best job ever….  When Dr. Jeck said I was to be appointed as Grace Miller’s Principal, I knew that I would be starting the ultimate best-ever journey!”

Dr. David Jeck, division superintendent, believes Diaz-Arnold’s experience and instructional skill set are unmatched.

“I’ve met few people with her breadth of knowledge in terms of school leadership. Even so, she is humble and an excellent listener,” he said.  “I can see her working collaboratively with her staff in order to take Miller to new heights in terms of student learning. She has the experience and motivation necessary to make this happen.”

Diaz-Arnold earned a bachelor’s in general education-special education from the University of Maryland, and a master’s in special education from George Mason University.  She later earned an education specialist degree in administration supervision from the University of Virginia.  

Before becoming the assistant principal at Smith Elementary, Diaz-Arnold worked from 2008 - 2017 as an assistant principal in two Fairfax County elementary schools.  She also served as an extended school year principal, lead administrative intern, facilitator, certified local trainer, inclusive schools research teacher and special education teacher in Fairfax.   

Reflecting on her years as assistant principal at Smith, Diaz-Arnold says she is most proud of the relationships she has built with the wonderful student body and their families.  She also credits the relationships she has made with the amazing staff and how far they have come to improve the teaching/learning opportunities for their students. Thanks to these relationships, she has been able to cultivate a climate of trust that nurtures a growth mindset.

Diaz-Arnold is excited to begin her new role as principal.  

“I am looking forward to getting to know each member of the Grace Miller learning community and to build the positive relationships that are the foundation of our work with students, staff, and families,” she said. “You’ve heard of the book by Jim Collins, “Good to Great.”  I would like to add a chapter entitled, Great to Greater. GMES has a strong school culture that supports student learning.  I would like to infuse systems and structures that would enhance what Grace Miller already has in place and to create a culture of inquiry.” 

Thanks to her family’s influence, Diaz-Arnold entered the field of education. She grew up with a brother with intellectual disabilities and knew from a very early age that all children, no matter their learning differences, deserved a caring teacher who nurtured their potential.  Diaz-Arnold tutored children with disabilities while in high school and supported Special Olympics as a buddy athlete.

Asked about what motivates her or her ‘why,’ Diaz-Arnold referred to a Daniel Pink quote “Our students need educators to prepare them for their future, not our past.”

She added, “Education is my passion! As a life-long learner, communicator, collaborator, I am compelled to share my learning and to support the learning of others. The power of our words and deeds, what we do, say, think matters in the lives of students, staff, and families.”

Diaz-Arnold lives in Front Royal with her husband Don and her parents. She has three adult children and a grandson.  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and blogging.