New principal: Timing is right for Nate Lambdin

By Peter Day
Social Media Adviser
Nate Lambdin’s first love was baseball, but if life were lived as on a baseball diamond his knack for being at the right place at the right time has led him to many unexpected off-the-field opportunities. On Thursday, August 9, a new opportunity will begin when Lambin greets students as the new principal of Lucerne Valley Middle High School.
“I’m fired up. I’m so excited,” Lambdin said. “The kids here are phenomenal. They’re excited to be part of the school. They’re so respectful. I’m just elated to be part of it.”
Lambin grew up in Buena Park, the son of teachers. Early on, he became infatuated with America’s pastime, baseball. His father, Gene Lambin, also was a coach after an impressive career as a high school and college athlete. The senior Lambin was inducted into the Indiana State University Hall of Fame for his achievements on the basketball court. Gene Lambin also played in the first Pan American Games in 1951, where he met Argentine leader Juan Peron and his equally famous wife, Eva Peron.
Gene Lambdin was his son’s father, coach and mentor. “I was the type of athlete that worked really hard. He kind of instilled that work ethic in me.”
Not surprisingly, Nate Lambdin’s hard work and innate athleticism paid off. After high school he played shortstop on the Cal State Dominguez Hills baseball team, where he also served as captain, as he pursued a degree in English. He also had an affinity for journalism, having served as editor for school newspapers in high school and again in college. Upon graduation, he knew he wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps, so he took the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).
Lambdin’s good timing also played a role in landing his first teaching job. In 1989, he was standing in line at a store near his home when he struck up a conversation with the gentleman standing in line in front of him. The man, Robert Schmidt, asked him what he was going to do now that he had graduated from college. Lambdin told the man he had just taken the CBEST and he was looking for a teaching job.
It turned out the man was a principal of a middle school in nearby Lynwood — and his school had a teaching opening. Lambin formally interviewed for the job, and by the following week he was standing in front of a class, teaching.
“I just loved it,” he said. “It was fate. I absolutely loved teaching junior high.”
Despite having a teaching job, he wasn’t about to give up baseball. He became an assistant coach at his alma mater, Cal State Dominguez Hills. (Lambdin currently serves as league commissioner of the Carolina Shores Collegiate Summer League.)
After three years in Lynwood, Lambdin and his wife — Wanda Lambdin, currently a teacher at Sultana High School in Hesperia, decided to move to the High Desert. The couple could afford to buy a home here — while Orange County home prices began to skyrocket — and raise a family.
Nate and Wanda Lambdin have raised three children, Madison, Montana and Hunter. All three graduated from Sultana High School. Hunter played baseball at Northwest Missouri State after playing at VVC.
In 1993, Nate Lambdin taught in Apple Valley. The following year, he began a 10-year teaching stint at Victor Valley High School while at the same time serving as head coach of the Victor Valley College baseball team. At VVC, his teams won more than 100 games.
After teaching at Victor, he moved to the Hesperia Unified School District, serving as vice-principal at Hesperia High where student enrollment was more than 4,000 in 2006. There, he learned how to motivate students — including some who weren’t thrilled to be in a learning environment.
“Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is about following up on behavioral management.”
Lambin received his first principal assignment when he was named principal of the alternative school, Mojave High School, in Hesperia. Although he never planned on being a principal, he says, “It was very rewarding at Mojave.”
Now, after nine years at Mojave, Lambdin is thrilled with another unexpected opportunity. He is very impressed with school district administration, especially Superintendent Peter Livingston who has made him feel right at home.
“This definitely was the right choice,” Lambin said. “I really wanted my taste of being a comprehensive high school principal. I’m really glad it’s this small school.”
For the first time in several years, the school will get an assistant principal. Kelly Boeing, also from the Hesperia Unified School District, has been hired.
“She’s going to be great with the kids here,” Lambin said. “I see her as a tremendous instructional leader. She will add to the depth of what we have going here.”
Lambin also teaches administration at Concordia University, which he feels dovetails into his role as a school principal. “We’re teachers and coaches. That’s kind of what we do. It’s better to lead them, not show them. A teacher is the lead learner in the classroom.”
While Lambin expects to be “highly visible on campus,” he sees his first year at Lucerne Valley as an opportunity to help students and teachers and immerse himself in the culture of the school. “Every school site is different. I want to build upon its strengths. I want to help find solutions where we need growth.”
His No. 1 goal is to keep students feeling safe and secure. “I’m a very student-centered person. Kids who feel good about where they are, they’re going to learn. They feel safe when they feel cared about. They’re going to be more likely to be successful.”
Using FFA adviser Mr. Troy Van Bavel as an example, Lambdin said all students need to be connected to an adult educator on campus. That person can be a coach, counselor, teacher or adviser. If a student isn’t feeling right, Lambdin wants every student to be able to share his concerns with someone.
“I want our children to have a voice, and their voice needs to be heard.”
Lambin is excited to see Lucerne Valley Middle High School implementing the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, and last week joined the local AVID teaching team at the annual AVID Summer Institute in San Diego.
He also brings a strong background with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), having served as a chairman of a visiting committee. “You learn so much that you can bring back to your school site.” In fact, under Lambdin’s leadership, Mojave High earned a rare “six-year clear” WASC accreditation.
Lambdin and the staff have been busily doing everything else it can to get ready for the school year. They are putting finishing touches on the school calendar — the sports staff including athletic director Brandon Barkley, football coach Doug Odum and volleyball coach Kelli Papiernik finished theirs — and balancing classes “so on the first day of school everything is golden.” Moreover, Lambdin said, a great first day of school sets the tone for the entire year, and he wants “nothing less than fantastic.”
“I’m excited about being part of this team, being part of this community.”
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