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Geography whiz, avid reader, bilingual instructor

Meet Your Administrator: Kelly Aponte

Grand Rapids Kelly Aponte is the new assistant principal at Southwest Elementary School – Academia Bilingue. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.

Previous experience in education: I was a fourth- and sixth-grade elementary teacher in Mexico. I also taught seven years as a bilingual teacher and worked three years as a dual-language teacher coordinator in Philadelphia.

Education/degrees: I earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education in Mexico City. I have two master’s degrees; the first one is in teaching English as a second language and the second one is in educational management and leadership, both from different colleges in Puerto Rico.

What would you like to share about your family? My husband, Wilfred, and I have two teenage kids: Kamyla, 16, who attends City High School, and Leonardo, 14, who attends East Kentwood Freshman Campus.

Kelly Aponte poses with first-grader Abdul May

Hobbies/interests: I love to read. I am kind of a nerd, but when I’m not reading things for school, I love to read historical fiction (Isabel Allende is a favorite author). My daughter loved the Magic Tree House collection. We read all those books together in English and Spanish!

I love to run, when I have time. I’m not a great runner, but I try to run four to five miles a day. I used to play basketball when I was in college.

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at your new school? I was very shy, but I loved school. It is not easy for me to make friends because I am shy to talk to people. It takes me a while to have conversations with people. 

My favorite subjects were reading, math and geography. I loved to compete with my classmates in geography. I also used to play every seasonal sport. I liked to play basketball, volleyball and do long jump and high jump.

Kelly Aponte watches students during a Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff celebration

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… The way they seem to erase what happened (negative things). They go home, reset and come back ready to learn. The ability they have to reset and move forward — I wish I could do that more often.

What is something you’re looking forward to this year? First, I am looking forward to fully understanding the way the dual-language program is being run in the school. It’s a different model than I’m used to using. I am looking forward to working with the teachers, parents and students in general and the community they serve.

If you could go back in time, which grade would you return to? Fourth grade. It’s my favorite grade not only as a student, but to teach. I grew up in a poor area of Mexico. I had a teacher who encouraged me to pursue my dreams in fourth grade. He believed in me and said, ‘You’re smart and you will do something great.’

Also, fourth grade is where the students are making that amazing transformation from learning to read to reading to learn.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would it be? It would be ’80s music! Everything ’80s in Spanish and English!

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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