PARADISE VALLEY, AZ — Even from behind a mask Jorge Ontiveros' enthusiasm and positive attitude are contagious.
"Very inclusive, and makes sure everyone feels happy," said Alexander Lesaffre, an eighth-grader at Greenway Middle School in Phoenix.
"He brings just an incredible, incredible energy to our school," said Principal Jeff Quisberg.
Ontiveros, or "Mr. O" as he is called, is currently assistant principal at Greenway Middle School.
"It's a large Hispanic population that I can really relate to and I enjoy helping those students," said Ontiveros. "I see myself through these kids, I want to help and support them and that's what I love."
Ontiveros' career with the Paradise Valley Unified School District spans nearly two decades. It is a career he never saw coming.
"I started in the district in 2004 as a security guard at Horizon High School," he said. "One of my bosses said, 'George you're good with kids, you should go into teaching,' so I did."
He worked at Horizon during the day, took classes at night, and landed his first teaching job at Palomino Elementary School. Eight years later, another friendly nudge to pursue more.
"Same thing, my principal was like, 'hey George you should go into administration,' and I said okay," said Ontiveros.
His unique career path has now become a lesson in persistence and determination.
"It's crazy, how you go from being a security guard to an assistant principal," said eighth grader Dulce Avila. "Nothing, nothing is impossible."
It's also a reminder that success is truly a team effort.
"We all need someone, we all need someone that's going to motivate us, inspire us," said Ontiveros. "I owe it to them, I owe it to our community, to our students on a daily basis to come in and do whatever I need to do."
As for what comes next, Ontiveros plans to pursue a doctorate degree in leadership with the hopes of becoming a school principal.