Grandville — In her new office at the Grandville Public Schools administration building, Ana Alemán-Putman called in a Swahili interpreter so she could communicate with a parent.
“Can you ask her how I can help to get her kindergartner enrolled in school?” she asked. She was using a phone service that offers interpretation in any language on demand — one that Alemán-Putman recently introduced to the district herself.
Providing interpretation and translation services is just one example of Alemán-Putman’s work as the district’s student academic success and well-being coordinator, a position she stepped into last fall. The newly created role focuses on making sure all students reach their fullest potential and feel a sense of belonging.
After reviewing data that showed some students were not consistently achieving academically or feeling like they belonged at school, district leadership decided that someone needed to be focused on addressing those issues full time.
Alemán-Putman, who previously was principal of East Elementary School, said she plans to build lasting systems within the district that promote equity and success, including parent perspective groups, more opportunities for students to voice their experiences, and more professional development for staff that is centered around culturally responsive instruction.
This past school year she’s spent much of her time getting to know the district schools, students and families and connecting with others who work in similar roles around Kent County.
“This role is so important,” she said. “I want to make sure we start it right.”
Alemán-Putman traces her passion for education to her parents, who were both migrant workers and emphasized the value of education while she was growing up as one of 15 siblings.
“Education can change your life,” she said. “It breaks cycles of poverty, it grows individuals and it’s life changing for families.”
She said one of the biggest adjustments of moving into her new role has been working in the administration building, which doesn’t have the constant presence of students. But that hasn’t stopped her from interacting with them anyway.
She recalled visiting students in various schools during lunch time, explaining to them that her new role is to make sure they have everything they need to succeed.
On multiple occasions, she recalled, students responded by asking “You’re here just for me?”
“I’m here just for you!” she said.
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• All students are different; they all need different things