Faculty Member Spotlight: Walter Ornelas

Juve Angulo, Editorial Cartoonist

Walter Ornelas is this month’s Staff Spotlight, and he shares his experience at South so far, how it has impacted him as a person, and more about his very first position as dean.
“[My experience] has actually been a very positive,” Ornelas said. “When I have had a question, everyone’s been very open, very helpful and very welcoming to be honest. It’s been a very positive experience for me overall.”
Along with saying his time here has been great, he says this experience has “expelled [him] to a new environment.”
“I’ve taught in very similar demographics but have never really worked in Plainfield, so it’s been very eye opening.”
Getting to know his new students has shaped him as well. Ornelas explains how it’s very easy to relate to the kids here, seeing how they grew up in similar situations.
“I think with my experience nothing’s really caught me off guard,” Ornelas said, “Working in communities in Chicago in some of the rougher neighborhoods has prepared me for a lot. I think some of the students and myself share a little bit of the same life experiences.”
However, Ornelas isn’t new to how things work in the education system, as he has both taught and has been a principal in several areas of Illinois prior to coming to South.
“I was an assistant Principal in Joliet, and I was an assistant principle in Chicago, so kind of a wealth of experience in urban settings, similar to the demographics we have here at Plainfield South,” Ornelas said.
Ornelas enjoys his time outside of school as well, he has several interests most may not expect.
“I’m a bit of a speed junky,” Ornelas said “I like to drive fast motorcycles, and I’ve jumped out of planes. If it goes fast, I’ve probably driven it, or jumped out of it at one point or another.”
Past students continue to inspire Ornelas.
“Students I had in the past still come back to me to tell me how great they’ve become, really shows that they have these values as well, which is a huge payoff, “Ornelas said.
Ornelas also says his heritage helps his work environment.
“I was born in Mexico and raised in Pilsen back in the early 80s, and at the time being in Pilsen was very much like being in Mexico,” he also added that it helps being able to speak both English and Spanish, seeing as there is a large population of Spanish speaking students at South.
“There are a lot of Spanish speaking parents that only communicate In Spanish, and that has helped me there,” Ornelas said. “My dad worked a lot so he could provide for us, and I think that has kind of instilled that work ethic in me.”
“You got to work hard to get where you want to be,” he added.
Morgan Sielaff, one of Ornelas’ students, had kind words to say about him.
“My experience with him so far has been pretty good!” she said, ‘I’ve only met with him once because I was marked absent, but he was super nice and understanding about it.”
To Sielaff, he seems like a very trustworthy leader.
“I think if I ever had an issue, I would not be uncomfortable with telling him what’s wrong,” she said, “He doesn’t seem afraid to address problems and find a resolution.”
Some say he differs from other deans as well.
“I think he differs from the other deans because he puts in an effort to relate to us and understand things from a student’s perspective,” said Sielaff
“I think he can positively impact our school because he handles situations well and appropriately,” said Sielaff.