By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
Educating students has always been a never-ending, but captivating endeavor for Kaitlyn Aguilar that began after years of watching her mother Judy Kramer, an 18-year veteran teacher in Silver Springs, Md.
“Children have always been a passion of mine,” said Aguilar, who is beginning her first year as principal of St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School. “I’ve known since I was a little girl that I wanted to be a teacher. Working with kids, tutoring, babysitting—all those things were things that I did when I was growing up. There’s this feeling you get when you work with kids. You see them learn and grow and change; it’s very life-giving.”
Being around her mother’s profession had a profound impact on Aguilar and her siblings Mary Ellen and Thomas, both of whom also decided to pursue teaching careers.
After finishing Xavier University in Cincinnati, Aguilar enrolled in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program at the University of Notre Dame, a curriculum designed to help educators in Catholic schools, particularly those serving students from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
In 2009, ACE sent Aguilar to Dallas at St. Mary of Carmel, where she started teaching fifth grade students, then moved to the classroom of her preference: kindergarten.
In 2010, she began dating José Aguilar, an alumnus who was coaching the school’s basketball team at the time. In March of this year, they were married, and just over two months later, she was asked to consider filling the role as the school’s new principal.
“The hardest piece in accepting this job and leaving my classroom was knowing that I wouldn’t be with the kids all day, every day,” she said. “But as principal, you have the opportunity to have an impact on a larger number of students and be a part of the lives of more students.”
That reluctance to leave the classroom can sometimes be a good thing, said professor James Frabutt, Aguilar’s mentor and a faculty member at the Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame.
“Sometimes I think the people who make the best leaders are the ones you have to pull out of the classroom because they’re so dedicated to being a great teacher,” Frabutt said. “They get that that’s at the very center of what we do in Catholic education.”
It was also at the center of her family life and exemplified in the career of her mother, from whom she still seeks advice. Kramer and her husband Bernard had a chance to visit Aguilar over the summer and watch her in action as the school’s new principal.
“She’s connected so well with the school,” Kramer said. “It’s really awesome to watch that. It’s what touches me the most right now, how they all accept her.”