Debra Cantú serves as an Associate Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Texas Principal Leadership Academy at the University of Texas in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. She collaborates with district partners to recruit and develop well- prepared, diverse instructional leaders by building sustainable leadership pipelines and growing quality aspiring principals. Dr. Cantú serves as an advisor for graduate students and supports authentic experiences, which provides an optimal blend of theory and practice.
Dr. Cantú is the recipient of the UT Principal Program Servant Leadership Award in 2018, 2020 and 2021, given to a faculty member who demonstrates exemplary service and committed leadership to the principal program. In 2022, she earned the Deans Distinguished Career Faculty Award.
Prior to joining the UT College of Education faculty, Dr. Cantú supervised principals and identified critical areas regarding leadership development that is addressed in the UTAPP program. She is a former teacher, assistant principal, principal, Director of Middle Schools, Director of PK-8 and Chief Academic Officer. She served as a Regional Director for Agile Mind, Inc. in collaboration with the Dana Center and supported multiple school districts beyond Texas and supported leadership development in other states in collaboration with the team. She valued this experience to engage in national practices regarding school governance, hiring practices, school finance, leadership development, aspiring principal programs, curriculum and instruction and assessment (Common Core and Texas accountability) and outside resource agency partnerships.
Dr. Cantú is a first generation college graduate and attended the University of Texas at Austin with the opportunity to earn her Bachelors, Masters in Educational Administration and Ph. D. in Policy and Planning. Her interests include leadership implications, social justice, American race policy, English Language Learners, leadership development and instructional improvement systems that contribute to eradicating inequities. She joined the UT Austin faculty in 2015 and lives in Lago Vista, Texas with her husband Robert Henning.