Superintendent, Scuola Vita Nuova
Nicole Goodman is the Superintendent at Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School. She graduated from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a minor in Sports Administration. Nicole also has a Masters in Administration from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, a Masters in Reading and an ESL endorsement from Concordia University, Nebraska. Recently, she obtained an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership with a concentration in superintendence from the University of Central Missouri. She has experience teaching first, second, fifth and sixth grade, as well as serving in the administrative roles of assistant principal, principal, and superintendent. Nicole has served in an urban setting for all of her 24 years in education. She knows that education is the key to eliminating systemic barriers, which motivates her pursuit for equitable learning. She passionately advocates for a quality education for ALL students and a supportive network for their families.
What made you want to join the education profession? Who were your role models as a young person?
This sounds like the thing you’re supposed to say, but I truly always wanted to be a teacher since second grade. I thought the world of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Glynn. As an adult, I see that she probably didn’t even realize how deeply she was impacting me during a difficult period in my childhood. She just poured love, care, and confidence into me. She was the start of a long line of relationships with my teachers that deeply inspired me and created lasting effects in my self-esteem. When they believed in me and encouraged me, they taught me how to believe in and encourage myself. Mr. Schultz was a physical education teacher in my elementary school. He did that game-changing thing that wonderful teachers do– he recognized my talents, and then he fostered them. The athletic talents he saw in me would later contribute to my recruitment to Simpson College. I would be remiss not to list my grandfather, Alvino Pena, as an enormous role model to me. He was a second-generation Mexican immigrant who faced racism and poverty, and he didn’t want that for me. Though those barriers did touch my life, he placed a huge importance on education and kept me focused on what I could do with the agency I possessed to create a positive path for myself.
You were recently awarded the Excellence in Education award for a school leader; what did winning this award mean to you?
I know someone has to get recognized, but it wasn’t about me, it was about the SVN team. I feel humbled to receive it and that somebody thought of me and nominated me. In my mind, and especially because of my background in sports, I think of this work as a team sport. I have always been about not me winning, but ‘we’ winning. It is always a wonderful feeling to be recognized for your hard work, and it excites me that receiving that sort of recognition leaves you even more motivated to reach higher levels of success.
How does it feel to be a role model to young educators and students in Kansas City? What do you try to bring to your work every day?
I take great pride in knowing that I am a role model in the eyes of my students and young educators, especially as a woman of color who reflects my students and community. When I walk the halls, I hope my kiddos feel the energy and confidence that I have. I had a coach who said it wasn’t enough to give 100%, because someone out there is giving it 110%. That stuck with me. I bring that to work with me every day. I want my students and educators to feel like giving it 110%, too. Let me do another sports metaphor: I see myself as a head coach– I’m looking at every kid, every staff member, and what they bring to the game. What I mean by that is identifying their strengths. I try to focus every day on what I can do, not what I can’t.
I love when the kiddos see the smile on your face (or these days, in your eyes) and feel the connection, feel part of a community– something greater. Educators can make or break a student’s confidence, their morale. I want them to feel understood because that’s where trust comes in. I never want to shame or guilt any of my students– people only know what they know until that changes. Kids mirror us– they’re watching and they’re forming their values and habits while they do. I feel honored to help my students be their authentic selves, hopefully something that they will feel confident to continue doing long after their time at SVN.
Returning to school for the 2021/22 school year has been a complicated task, what has made you most proud of how your team and families have handled this transition?
Because we were largely in-person during the 2020-21 school year, it helped us be even more prepared for being back 100% in person this school year. I’m very proud of how our team came together to educate ourselves about covid-19. Even when the pandemic started and we were shut down, our team continued to research and plan for the education and, most importantly, the safety of our students. Information was changing every day, and it was a major feat to keep up with the evolving research and recommendations. You know, even in a dire situation like this, you can’t crumble and give in to those feelings of overwhelm. We wanted to get everyone back safely as soon as possible because we knew it was where they needed to be. If kids don’t feel connected and part of something, they feel lost. They won’t be nearly as engaged, and they don’t get that social-emotional support that they get in-person. I’m proud of both our team and our families for stepping up and giving input that informed how we moved forward. It’s a reminder that great things can happen when people come together.
SVN recently added new facilities including a movement studio, teaching kitchen, fine arts, and science and technology lab – what are your goals for this expansion and what are you hoping these new facilities will provide to your students?
We want this expansion to strengthen our student programming. We need enough space for our kiddos to dream of their futures. Facilities do matter, and if you don’t have the proper facilities, the teaching and learning processes are just that much harder. You have elementary teachers who teach every subject matter, which is difficult. Doing that all in one classroom with only what resources can be found therein– that isn’t the best we can do. We talk about wanting more doctors, scientists, engineers. Well, in order to even know what different career paths are available, they need to be exposed to a varied and enriched selection of programs. That way, we can try to help them recognize their strengths and tap in to them. We have our own science and technology labs, a music room, an art room… we have a kiln now. These don’t sound revolutionary, but our kids didn’t have access to these things before. We are going to be able to expose them early on to a lot of different career paths and plant seeds for their futures.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, how has education shifted for Hispanic and LatinX students in Kansas City in recent years? What opportunities would you like to see expanded for families?
I think there’s a much larger trend towards, first of all, acknowledging that there is a gap. Not everyone is always comfortable talking about that. I think we are providing more opportunities for our students and families to have a seat at the table in Kansas City. There are more organizations to engage Hispanic and LatinX families in education, such as our partner, LatinX Education Collaborative. Something that I want to see more (or rather, hear more) in our community is Hispanic and LatinX voices. I want institutions (and not just Hispanic and LatinX-focused institutions) to ask, not assume, what these families want and need in order for their children to succeed. Taking the time to build deep relationships rooted in mutual interest and respect is the only way forward.