By John Lynds
It is the second full week of school and new Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School Principal, Kristen Goncalves, is settling nicely to her new assignment.
“It’s pretty great and amazing,” said Goncalves. “What I really love is the community feel of the school. We have a great staff, great parents and great students. They are all so happy and welcoming.”
Goncalves grew up in Springfield and graduated from Emmanuel College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and began her career in Boston Public Schools at the Richard Murphy K-8 School teaching 5th grade.
In 2010 Goncalves transitioned to the Henderson Inclusion School where she found her passion for inclusive education and collaborative data driven instruction.
“I really want to make sure every child has access to these types of programs and Boston is equatable in these services,” said Goncalves.
While teaching at the Henderson, Goncalves received her Master’s of Education from Northeastern University in Special Education with a focus on planning within the Universal Design for Learning framework to increase student engagement and provide access to high standards for all learners.
UDL is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.
“There’s no reason all classes in all schools can’t be fantastic, I really believe that,” said Goncalves. “Children with special education needs and those without should all be getting the services they need to succeed and get a quality education.”
During her time at the Henderson, she served as a New Teacher Developer and as the Mathematics Facilitator, developing and coordinating mathematics professional development and serving as a liaison between the Mathematics department and staff.
In 2013, Goncalves was chosen as a Field Advisor to SWIFT, a Department of Education funded organization focused on promoting equity in schools for all learners. During her time as a field advisor, she was appointed to represent Henderson at the SWIFT National Conference in Washington D.C. where she shared instructional practices that have led to achievement of all learners.
“We are trying to change the look of inclusion in Public Schools,” said Goncalves. “While some kids absolutely need specific services those services might benefit other students so it is really looking on how to open it up a bit and make a lot these services more accessible.”
During the 2015-16 school year, Goncalves was a Lynch Leadership Academy Principal Fellow at the JP Manning School. She was named interim Principal of the Kennedy in June 2016.
“So I jumped into East Boston this year and this was my first experience with the neighborhood and I love it,” said Goncalves. “What I really love is how the school has connected families of culture with to their schooling which is sometimes that is sometimes is lost. Even though some of these students might be limited in language proficiencies and parents might be struggling there’s a community here that makes sure we are all learning together and helping families.”
Goncalves also pointed to Eastie’s geographic isolation as a positive.
“It’s like a family over here and all the principals of all the schools are working together all the time,” said Goncalves. “When I first got here the other principals were calling every day to check in and see if I needed anything.”
Another thing Goncalves is a big believer in is continuing the tradition of parent involvement in the school.
“I really love how the parents get involved,” said Goncalves. “I feel so strongly that parents not only be engaged in what’s going on in the school but taking an active role with us in the evolution of the school and helping us shape the school and what it means in the community.”