Debra Cantu

Photo of faculty member Debra  Cantu
Associate Professor of Practice, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy
UT Austin Principalship Program Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy

Phone: +1 512 471 6137
Office: SZB 3.308K, SZB
Office Hours: By appointment. You may schedule a meeting with me by contacting me via email.

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 serves as Special Assistant for District Partnerships to support the College of Education, as she collaborates with district partners to recruit and develop well- prepared educators. Cantú serves as an advisor for graduate students and supports authentic experiences, which provides an optimal blend of theory and practice. She is the chair of the Texas Program Improvement Network in collaboration with principal preparation programs across the state to foster practices to improve program design and implementation aligned to Quality Measures™ Domains and Texas Principal Standards to positively impact principal preparation.

In 2022, Cantú earned the Dean’s Distinguished Career Faculty Award and was nominated for the President's Associates Graduate Teaching Excellence Award. She is the recipient of the UT Principal Program Servant Leadership Award in 2018, 2020 and 2021, 2023 given to a faculty member who demonstrates exemplary service and committed leadership to the principal program.

Prior to joining the UT College of Education faculty, she 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.

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. She joined the UT Austin faculty in 2015 and lives in Lago Vista, Texas with her husband Robert Henning.