Maggie Riddle, executive director of pre-K through eighth grade schools for Berkeley Unified School District, is set to retire July 1 after 26 years of being an educator.
In her position first as a teacher and then as the principal of Jefferson Elementary School, and finally as the district’s executive director for pre-K through eighth grade schools, Riddle has been committed to ensuring that all students have access to an equitable education. One of her many achievements as director was authoring actionable equity strategies and implementing them into the curricula of schools districtwide.
“Maggie Riddle touched thousands of lives as an educator at Berkeley Unified,” said district spokesperson Trish McDermott in an email. “Her deep commitment to social justice has inspired countless educators, students and families, and she leaves a legacy of unyielding passion for making sure every student’s brilliance, creativity and desire to learn is recognized and celebrated.”
Riddle added that her most important work as both an educator and a community member was in social justice and equity. According to Riddle, the district will “never be done” addressing issues such as racial bias and educational opportunity gaps, among others, until all students have access to an equitable education.
Mary Cazden, a longtime colleague and the current principal of Jefferson Elementary School, said Riddle has been “instrumental” in keeping equity issues at the forefront of her focus while also working to develop better assessment practices for student development.
Cazden added that she and Riddle worked together on the district’s Universal Learning Support System model, which outlines the district’s academic, emotional, social and health support services available to students both in and out of the classroom.
“Maggie was someone who really loved and cared for kids, and it showed in every interaction she had with kids,” said Malcolm X Elementary School Principal Alexander Hunt. “You got a sense that she was a genuinely warm and caring person and someone who loved her job.”
Riddle also worked to create a consistent curriculum and community throughout the district by physically visiting schools, Hunt added. Maintaining this connection with the students’ and the schools’ needs is something that aids in the district’s decision-making process, according to Hunt.
Hunt added that while there is “much more” left to do throughout the district, he hopes that the next directors continue building on the foundation established to provide students with an equitable education.
Riddle echoed these thoughts, adding that as a public servant, one of her passions is social activism and that she will continue to advocate for equitable access to resources such as education and housing during her retirement.
“Always remember that all of our students, from every one of our communities, have tremendous brilliance and talent,” Riddle said. “Our job is to see and free up that brilliance and creativity as we honor all children and help them achieve to the highest levels imaginable.”