In asking Andrea Porter-Lopez ’91 what drew her to Salem State, she recalls, “Salem State found me.”
Andrea drew the attention of college recruiters back in the 1980s as a star basketball player in her hometown of Mattapoisett, Mass. Tim Shea ’83G, former head coach of the women’s basketball team, reached out to the Porter family regularly.
“As a high school junior and senior, I wasn’t actively looking at college. Coach Shea would call and ask me what I wanted to do with my future. He made that connection, more so than the division I and II schools that were actively recruiting me. And soon, I was part of the Salem State family.”
Andrea fondly remembers her time in Peabody Hall and in O’Keefe. “My roommates and floormates became my family. There was a real network of support for us basketball players that the coaching staff encouraged. We would have team dinners throughout the season, and it connected me to people across the university.”
She jokes that she was indoctrinated into her education major since most of her floormates were becoming teachers. “I fell into education and it was a great fit. It was the right path for me.”
“At Salem State, we were pushed out into the school system during sophomore year. By the time student teaching came along, I already had a lot of experience and could walk into the classroom feeling confident. When I graduated, I was ready to teach.”
Andrea is currently the principal of Woodlawn Elementary School in Portland, Oregon and has spent over 30 years in public education. In the spring of 2023, she was named Oregon Elementary Principal
of the Year, being described as a “multiplier” who goes above and beyond to enhance the skills and expertise of her team.
“A school is a family, and it cannot hinge on one person. I have a vast leadership team of coaches and teachers who have their own areas of expertise, and I want them to shine. I’m able to build a diverse team that can showcase their talents.”
Andrea also addresses the desperate need for educators of color across the country. “We have to put teachers in front of kids that they connect with and aspire to be.”
“My work ties back to sports. As a player and a coach, it’s your role to support others, because it’s hard to be a teacher and especially hard to be an educator of color. Finding your peers, your family and having hobbies that bring you joy makes all the difference.”
As a longtime supporter of the athletics program, making annual gifts since 1994 to help student athletes build camaraderie and a network of support, Andrea reflects on the community she found during her time at Salem State. “Times change but the connectedness I felt at Salem State is so important, and I want current students to have the opportunities that I had. Somebody did it for me back then, and I want to keep it going.”