Michael Dela Cruz’s story began in 1969 Oahu, Hawai’i. He was born and raised in Oahu, but at 9 years-old, his family moved to Glenville, California and stayed there for the rest of his childhood.
Throughout high school, Dela Cruz exercised his creativity by taking every art class that the school offered. In 1987, many schools stopped offering those classes, and Dela Cruz realized how lucky he was to have been able to take them. While he was enjoying these classes, he discovered his passion for teaching; his teacher would allow him to teach several of the younger classes. He knew that he would become a teacher himself one day.
“I always knew I was always going to teach something. Throughout college and later on in life, after so many valuable experiences, I realized that I had a lot of information in my head, and it really did no good to anyone else for it to stay there. So I decided to share it,” said Dela Cruz.
Dela Cruz has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design, with an emphasis in Product Design, from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. He returned to California State University-Long Beach later on to further his studies, and when he did, he joined a fraternity.
“In the ‘90s, fraternities were different than they are now, but going from a private school to a public college, I really didn’t know anything about them,” said Dela Cruz. “I was learning how to balance priorities through this process of college and fraternity responsibilities.” Over the course of four years, Dela Cruz held eight different office positions and developed many of the management skills that would benefit him in the classroom later on.
On December 31st, 2008, Dela Cruz and his now-wife, Rowelyn, got married in Santa Barbara at the Doubletree. Four years later in 2012, they moved from California to Central Florida, her hometown.
“That was a major transition. I had always told everyone that I was never moving to Florida, but then the Lord said, ‘Oh ho, Mike, are you going to tell me what you want to do?’ God had other plans,” said Dela Cruz.
At the time that they moved, his wife was pregnant. She gave birth and went back to work full-time, and Dela Cruz became a stay-at-home dad. But after two years, they were ready to return to California, and although they were among familiar faces, they were fruitlessly searching for a solid, spiritual community for them and for their child. A friend approached them in 2016 with a teaching opportunity for his wife in New Port Richey, and within a month, they were on an airplane to come back to Florida.
“It was all a God thing. If we hadn’t moved to Florida in 2012, then there never would have been a need to go back to Orange County in 2014. And then there wouldn’t have been a need to come back here in 2016,” said Dela Cruz. “These weren’t small moves; they were big moves. But we had a sense of peace. We had to make all those moves, or we never would have ended up in Tampa.”
Now at North Tampa Christian Academy, Dela Cruz is thrilled to bring his analytical mind, creative spirit, and professional experience as a product designer to the classroom. He teaches students to master the fundamentals, think outside the box, and try multiple ways to solve a problem, acknowledging that solutions can come from anywhere and anyone. He shares the importance of striving to become the man or woman that God designed you to be, and that by doing so, you discover your purpose.
“God has placed me here. I love connecting with the kids — that’s what I really enjoy. We’re not saving the world, and we’re not fixing the deficit or balancing the United States budget, but we affect someone’s life who really needs it,” said Dela Cruz. “This is who I am and this is who God designed me to be. I [always] ask myself: is this just? Is it righteous? Is it part of God’s plan? And if it is, I’m not really worried about the rest.”
Get to Know Michael Dela Cruz:
Q: Do you have any kids?
A: I have two kids, Lia and Kimo. Kimo means “James” in Hawaiian, and that’s my brother’s name, so it’s a little homage to my brother.
Q: What did you like to do for fun in high school?
A: In high school, we’d go to Manhattan Beach. All of my friends were surfers, but I was the only boogie boarder because I came from Hawaii!
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: Man, there’s so many! I’m going away from sushi, but I do love the LA street taco. A good carne asada is my favorite.
Q: Do you have a favorite TV show or movie?
A: As a visual person, TV is how I like to unwind! I watch obscure things. Fun fact: I only had one DVD when I was away at school and I didn’t have wifi, so at lunch, I would watch the first 30 minutes of the same movie — Shooter — over and over and over again. I like comedies, but action movies are the best. The Bourne series are great!
Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: I’m all about movies, but I do like design, so I’ll look at design books. I prefer modern, minimalist design. Mies van der Rohe is one of my favorites; the phrase ‘less is more’ was actually coined by him.
At North Tampa Christian Academy, a Tampa private school, the faculty, staff, and families work as a team. Our service-oriented approach builds Christian leaders who think deeply, choose wisely, create beauty, and use their dreams to solve problems. Want to learn more about what makes us different? Contact us today.