Assistant Superintendent Hopes to Leverage Relationships, Technology
Dr. Amy Vondra’s experiences as a student help guide her goals as an educator.
Vondra attended four schools between kindergarten and fifth grade, and while she was always a good student, she was never great at being able to sit at her desk and just listen.
But her fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Armstrong, “helped me appreciate the experience of learning and understanding how interactive it could be. She connected with me and made learning come alive for me. She helped make learning authentic,” Vondra said.
She hopes to inspire similar experiences for Kalamazoo Public Schools students as the district’s new assistant superintendent for instruction and student services.
“I took a survey class on special education as a student and had the opportunity to work with students who struggled to learn and looked at different approaches to learning and teaching that helps each student learn best,” Vondra said. “As I taught, every time I worked in one grade level, I found that I enjoyed working with the next grade level older, and I just really started appreciating the unique needs of kids across the entire PreK to 12 spectrum.”
Vondra comes to KPS from Chicago Public Schools, where since 2012, she has served as an assistant principal and principal in elementary, middle, and high schools. She has successfully led programs from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. She served as a residency site mentor principal, sat on the Principal Advisory Committee for the CPS chief executive officer, and coordinated programs to ensure alignment across grade levels and subjects.
She serves as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Illinois at Chicago. Before joining CPS, she was chief operating officer of America Scores, a nonprofit that works to build confidence and character in young people in 14 states.
Vondra earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education from Vanderbilt University. She also holds a master’s of business administration from Northwestern University-Kellogg School of Business and a doctorate of education in Urban School Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
She is moving to Kalamazoo with her husband, Daniel Vicens, their three young children, and her mother, Anita Wilcheck.
As KPS prepares for in-person learning in the fall, Vondra says the district can look at the past year for insight into new ways to serve students and families. ‘We know it is important to have kids in classrooms where they can learn together, but we don’t want to overlook the important things that we discovered last year,” she said.
The other opportunity facing the district is to build upon the strong school-family partnerships that formed over the past year of online learning. Schools need to leverage those relationships to ensure students have the support they need to return to school and succeed.
“My first goal for the school year is the successful reopening of school and engagement of students across the district,” she said. “After that I want to make sure KPS provides the excellent educational opportunities that every child needs. We need to ensure the district motto of ‘Every child. Every opportunity. Every time.’ through the decisions we make and the actions we take every day.”
Cutline: Dr. Amy Vondra, back left, is moving to Kalamazoo with her family.