Tim Liles Gets Back, and Gives Back, to His Roots as Sunnyside Principal
For principal Tim Liles, Sunnyside High School is quite literally home. Not only does he live less than a mile from campus, but the job has brought him back to the southeast Fresno neighborhood where he grew up. And even though he never really strayed far from the nest to begin with, he says he’s lucky and that it’s “pretty cool” to be back.
Before taking the job at Sunnyside a couple of years back, Liles had worked at various campuses in Fresno Unified, and even worked for the district as coordinator of campus culture. It’s no wonder then, that campus culture is hugely important to Liles. And it’s something he says is paramount at Sunnyside. “Culture doesn’t just happen,” he says, you’ve got to work at it.
At a glance: Sunnyside High School opened in the fall of 1999 on the corner of Peach and Kings Canyon. It’s home to around 3,000 students grades 9-12. Graduates have both stayed local and traveled across the country to attend college, with some Sunnyside alums going on to attend Ivy League schools such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford.
The school’s emphasis on building relationships between students and teachers is accomplished through the use of home room classes and four smaller administration offices set up to serve about 700 students each. Liles says these university offices, as they are called, help make such a big school “feel smaller.” And, along with home room classes, they allow teachers and administrators to guide the progress of students from freshman year through graduation.
What’s particularly special, Liles says, is that at graduation, it’s a student’s home room teacher who hands him his diploma, culminating the four years they’ve spent together.
Here, Liles talks about being “Cedar Avenue-educated,” the importance of culture to a good education and why you should expect to have the door held open for you when you walk onto the Sunnyside campus.