KIPP Colorado Schools is thrilled to welcome Amanda Gonzales as the new school leader of KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy (KNDLA). Amanda currently serves as an assistant principal at KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School (KNDMS).
Ms Gonzales grew up in Southwest Denver—just a couple of blocks from where KIPP Denver Collegiate High School (KDCHS) and KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy are located now. She attended Saint Rose of Lima Elementary School, Rishel Middle School, and West High School.
After graduating from West, she started college in Texas, but soon realized that it wasn’t the right fit for her, so she moved back to Colorado and transferred to Community College of Denver (CCD). After deciding to leave CCD and take a pause on her own education, she started working as a program developer and mentor for adjudicated teens.
Soon after, Ms. Gonzales started working for a charter school in Lakewood, CO as a first year teacher in a combined sixth, seventh, and eighth grade online classroom. In her second and third year at that school, she taught a combined 9-12 online classroom, but she found that the online classroom was not truly teaching students, so she began supplementing those classes with direct instruction.
“It felt like I was just playing teacher in those years,” says Ms. Gonzales. “Here I was in the classroom every day telling kids to work hard so they could go to college, but I hadn’t even finished college myself.”
It was then that she realized that teaching was what she wanted to do and found a renewed inspiration to continue her education. In the fall of 2009, Ms. Gonzales enrolled at Metro State College of Denver, where she began studying toward a bachelor’s degree in Special Education with a minor in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education. During these years, she worked with the Gang Rescue and Support Project (GRASP) with gang-involved teens and families.
With her new degree and the lessons she learned in her early teaching years, Ms. Gonzales began working at Adams City High School in Commerce City as an affective needs case manager for students with serious emotional needs. At that time, the school asked Ms. Gonzales to lead the development of their affective needs program to make sure it met students’ needs and fulfilled state requirements.
For the next three years, she taught all content for all grade levels for students with affective needs. She oversaw the school’s special education department, which served 280 students with special needs, ten special education teachers, and a number of paraprofessional and special service support staff. Over the years, she provided instructional leadership and coaching for other teachers about how to teach students with disabilities, and she created district-level policy for special education.
In 2014, she enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies and special education administration. With these degrees and the licensure they provided, Ms. Gonzales began her tenure as an assistant principal at KNDMS.
“It truly excites me to get up every day and go to work at KNDMS because I get to work in a field I love with amazing students and coworkers,” she says. “This has been a place where people’s talents are recognized and encouraged.”
Now, Ms. Gonzales will bring that same enthusiasm to her new role as school leader at KNLDA, where she is excited to continue the school’s tradition of strong academic performance, and focus on empowering students to be leaders. She believes that when students understand their own identities, they can see and support the humanity of others, which provides a foundation for a strong community.
“When you have a strong community, that’s when you can make a strong impact,” she says.
When she’s not building community at school, Ms. Gonzales is usually spending time with her husband and seven children. She’s an avid reader of historical fiction, and loves learning about the Chicano movement and social justice.
Her favorite activity, though? Making time for joy and laughter.
“Laughter really is my greatest medicine,” she says. “I strive to laugh every day.”