Aquinas Academy principal brings rich elementary education experience

Aquinas Academy principal brings rich elementary education experience

For Kelly Watkins, her new role as principal of Aquinas Academy in Greensburg is a homecoming – one where she can realize a longtime dream to make a difference for students and their parents, teachers and the community alike.


Watkins grew up in Latrobe and earned her bachelor’s in elementary education at Westminster College in New Wilmington, then moved Virginia to teach special education curriculum to seventh-grade students. Her career took her to all levels of elementary education, including teaching middle schoolers in fifth and sixth grade, eventually moving her focus on students in third through fifth grade while continuing to teach in Virginia. 


During this time, Watkins also earned her master’s degree in educational leadership from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virgiina. Theoretically, this meant she was ready to serve in a principal role. But Watkins felt she wanted to take on one more surprising challenge to prepare her to lead: teaching kindergarten.


“I wanted to see where children started, to see the full gamut of their educational growth, Watkins said. ”The importance of the primary years is incredible. Those first years are establishing a really solid foundation.”


“Kindergarten used to be socialization and play, but it’s not anymore,” she adds. “That’s when you’re really learning how to read. Too often, if children have a weakness not addressed there, those are the kids who can struggle with reading for the rest of their school career. Therefore, it’s so important for that 

baseline to be established.”


Watkins believes her rich experience at the elementary level will be key in helping provide strong leadership at Aquinas Academy, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. She also believes she is at the right point in life to take on a new challenge, with her son and daughter now grown and her energies fully focused on her new role.


“I am so excited, giddy actually, because this a dream of mine,” Watkins says. “I am going to take everything I have learned along the way from administrators I have admired and respected to build a wonderful learning environment. The experience I have working with fellow teachers, students and their parents, and being a parent myself will all help so much as I work to make a bigger difference for our students.”


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