Gov. Steve Beshear appointed two members – Leonel (Leo) Calderón of Edgewood, Ky., and Nawanna Privitt of Lexington – to the Kentucky Board of Education this summer. To give educators throughout the state the opportunity to learn more about the men and women who serve on the board, Kentucky Teacher posed a series of questions to each of the new members.
In this issue we introduce Leonel (Leo) Calderón, who holds one of the board’s at-large seats.
Calderón has over 26 years of experience at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and has held numerous leadership roles including his current position of director for Latino Student Affairs. He advises major corporations, schools and non-profit organizations about how to effectively deal with the educational needs of the growing Latino population. Extensive civic involvement has been part of Leo’s career, including board memberships at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, Behringer-Crawford Museum, Women’s Crisis Center, BRIDGES for a Just Community and the English Language Learners Foundation.
He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from NKU and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and an Associate of Arts in Psychology from Thomas More College. Leo resides in Edgewood with his wife, Kathy, and has three children and three grandchildren.
His term expires April 14, 2016.
Why is what you do as a board member important to teachers today?
Hopefully through my role as a board member I can represent the best interest of the teachers as well as the students and their families.
What impact do you hope to bring to the board in the immediate future?
To be able to shed light on the Latino and other underrepresented student perspectives.
What long-term goals do you have as a member of the board?
To listen to other experts in this field and develop educational policies or initiatives that will have a significant impact to all of our students.
Is there an event in your past that helped you decide to become involved in education?
There is no specific event; however, our society is changing quite rapidly, and we need to embrace these challenges.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
While attending public high school in the south side of Chicago I had a math teacher, Mrs. Krupa, who believed in me and encouraged me to consider college.
What are the biggest obstacles facing Kentucky children?
To ensure that the students have the best possible education so they can enter college or compete in the workforce.
What personal trait will serve you best as a board member?
As a fervent advocate in education, I firmly believe that all students can succeed in one way or another.
Like many Kentucky students, your parents weren’t college-educated. What advice would you give students about being the first generation to go to college?
To believe in yourself, work hard and pursue your dreams.
Kentucky Board of Education members have very strongly supported increasing opportunities for students to take more years of a world language? What would you see as the benefits of increased world language education?
With the changes in demographics and living in a global economy, it is to our advantage for our students to acquire these language skills and continue with a strong legacy of an excellent American education.
What special challenges do Latino children face in Kentucky schools, and how can the board help overcome those challenges?
Many of them face language problems, cultural and social challenges and communicating effectively with parents. Having more bilingual or culturally competent teachers and administrators will definitely alleviate some of these challenges.