Max Delgado is the new Principal of Colorado Academy’sUpper School, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. He came to CA from Saint Paul Academy and Summit School in Saint Paul, Minn., where he was the Upper School Principal. Delgado was also an administrator at the Blake School in Minneapolis and The College Preparatory School in Oakland, Calif. He holds an MFA degree from the California College of the Arts and a BA from Fordham University. We talked to Max about the circuitous journey that led him to his career in education.
Welcome to the Colorado Academy Upper School! What about Colorado appealed to you and made it worth relocating your family from Minnesota?
To be honest, it was Colorado Academy that attracted me even more than the state. I have worked at enough excellent independent schools to have seen some very strong programs. When I looked at CA, the school had every quality program I had seen throughout my career! It is really exciting to see it all in one institution.
Specifically, what impressed you about CA?
It was very clear to me that both the students and faculty at CA take the notion of intellectual curiosity to heart. You engage in big ideas at CA! Everyone I spoke with also emphasized that CA is a place where kindness is expected.
CA is clearly a school where students can find and dive into a specialized passion, but they also are asked to explore a broad spectrum of interests. The Upper School Innovation Lab where students can design and build is so impressive. And I really like the programs I saw, like Interim and the experiential education programs, that emphasize community service and outdoor education.
You interviewed for this new position in the middle of a pandemic. Was that strange?
It’s definitely a different process from what it would have been pre-COVID. I interviewed over Zoom, but I met all the same people I would have met if I had interviewed in person and engaged in the same conversations. My family agreed that everything that we were learning about the position was affirming. We are taking a leap of faith, but it just felt right to us. And we’re excited to be moving back to the West.
Were you determined to work in education as far back as your undergraduate years?
I actually majored in “Modern Age Studies” at Fordham, which was very stimulating intellectually, but as I got closer to graduation, I was biting my nails about what would come next! I had spent a college summer on the West Coast working at a camp with kids, and I fell in love with California and working with young people. When I graduated, I moved to California and served as an AmeriCorps volunteer, and I also led volunteer crews for Habitat for Humanity. I discovered that I really enjoyed the teenage crews that came to volunteer—they were funny and engaging. One of my friends suggested that if I enjoyed working with young people, perhaps I should consider becoming a therapist.
I got a job working in an adolescent drug treatment center and discovered It was fascinating to work with young people who were really at a pivotal moment in their lives. But always, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about going into teaching.
In your next position, you transitioned into education, but not as a teacher. How did that happen?
Yes, I did things backwards! I can still remember carrying my printed resume around to every high school in Oakland in 2000 with no takers. One day, Dr. Sharona Barzilay, the Assistant Head of The College Preparatory School, which is a private high school in Oakland, called me. She said, “I know you want to be an English teacher, but actually, I think you are an administrator.” That’s how I ended up as a 24-year-old Associate Dean of Students. I loved it more than I thought I would, and Sharona also made sure I had the opportunity to get into the classroom to co-teach some classes. I still feel that I owe my entire career to Dr. Barzilay.
You are moving from one Principal position to another. What about being a Principal appeals to you so much?
There are always new challenges. It’s so different, moment to moment, day to day. The duties of a principal call upon my combined interests in being a therapist and an educator. I really enjoy entangling big problems that have emotion tied to them. At the same time, I find it interesting to figure out the little stuff—like do we have the right doorknobs on our classroom doors? I am also excited to join the English Department at CA, teaching whatever class that will help out.
I like going back to Mexico. My mother was an American foreign exchange student when she met my father in Mexico. He had grown up in a small town in Oaxaca. We lived in Mexico City when I was a kid, and I still have many family members in Mexico City and Oaxaca. My first language was Spanish, and I am a heritage speaker, so when I go back, it takes a couple days for my brain to kick in. My aunties like to correct me on my grammar.
Favorite type of book?
I like non-fiction and comic books. There are many comic books published in Mexico City, and when I was a child, my aunt would take me to a publishing house, and I was fascinated by the comic book artists. I started collecting comic books, and my collection has now grown to something like 6-7,000 comic books.
I am a Gen Xer, so the ‘90s is where my heart is.
Thanksgiving, because I like to be around family.
Favorite way to relax?
I like jogging and doing old-fashioned jigsaw puzzles.