For the past eight years, Ms. Ashley Groeneveld has taught physical education in Illinois and Colorado public schools.
Now the Norridge native and Ridgewood High School graduate will make the transition to administration as she becomes the new assistant principal of Elm Middle School.
After teaching in LaGrange School District 105 from August 2010 to June 2012, she moved to Colorado with her husband, whose company had an office in Denver.
While in Colorado she taught physical education at Alsup Elementary School in Commerce City from August 2012 to June 2013. In addition, she served as summer school principal at Hanson Elementary School (also in Commerce City) from May to July 2013.
When her husband relocated to Chicago, Ms. Groeneveld returned to Illinois, teaching physical education at The Skokie School in Winnetka Public Schools District 36 for the next five years, beginning in August 2013 until her arrival at Elm this summer.
To learn more about Ms. Groeneveld, including her time as a physical education teacher in both Illinois and Colorado, District 401 web/media specialist Dave Porreca interviewed her via email.
The Q&A was conducted in May, before Ms. Groeneveld began her new job as assistant principal. An edited version of their exchange appears below.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Norridge, Illinois.
Q: What high school did you attend?
A: I attended Ridgewood High School! Go Rebels!
Q: Based on your background, I think it’s safe to say you were probably an athlete in high school, and maybe even in college. Is that true? If so, what sports did you play, and which was your favorite?
A: Through high school I was a varsity cheerleader and played basketball and volleyball. My favorite of the athletics I was involved in was cheerleading!
Q: Assuming you were an athlete in school, did you play on any championship teams? Did you receive any individual honors? If so, what? (No need to be modest!)
A: Sadly no, we played for pride!
Q: As an undergraduate at Eastern Illinois University you majored in physical education, minored in health studies and earned a bachelor’s degree in education. Then you earned your (first) master’s degree, in kinesiology and sports studies. Then you began teaching in District 105 in LaGrange. Did you do any teaching while working on your first master’s? If so, where, and what did you teach?
A: While I was earning my first master’s degree I was a graduate assistant at EIU. So the school year I was working on my master’s I taught kindergarten physical education at an all-kindergarten building called Mark Twain Elementary in Charleston, Ill.
Q: What motivated you to become an educator in general and a physical education teacher in particular?
A: I wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids, and I wanted to make an impact on their health and fitness. I wanted to instill in my students a love for being active!
Q: What continues to attract you to education as a profession?
A: The kids — helping to shape and guide them. They are the future leaders.
Q: You started in District 105 in LaGrange and then moved to Colorado. What led to that move? And what led to your return to Illinois?
A: I moved to Colorado because my husband’s company was there, and he was in an office in Denver. We moved back to Illinois for the same reasons; he was relocated back home to Chicago.
Q: How would you compare teaching in Colorado with teaching in Illinois? Are there any significant differences in the educational systems? In the students? In parental expectations? In the challenges that teachers face?
A: Teaching in Illinois and Colorado are similar. Students didn’t have physical education every day, which was a bit challenging for me for planning and implementing curriculum, and then also being in Colorado there was a heavy emphasis on outdoor education.
Q: Looking back on your time in the classroom, what are some of your fondest memories? What are some of the things you’re proudest of as a teacher?
A: In my previous district we had a tradition the week before holiday break in our department called “The Reindeer Games.” It was a week of trivia, games, relay races, spirit, costumes and just all-around fun! Some of the most fun times were had during this week! One thing I’m the most proud of is starting a 5K in honor of a colleague’s daughter who passed away from a brain tumor. We started the event and had 100 runners. At our most recent race, which we just did, we had 300 runners and raised over $6,000 for her foundation.
Q: When you were teaching, were you a sponsor or coach of any student activities or sports? If so, which activities or sports?
A: I sponsored and coached many things. I was a cheerleading coach, and I have sponsored climbing club, after-school sports, service club and an “every Monday matters” club.
Q: What led you to make the transition to administration? Why leave the classroom?
A: I have always known that one day I wanted to move into administration. I have always inserted myself into leadership roles in my school, and I enjoy being a leader and facilitating. I want to support teachers in their classrooms, help students through anything they need and support parents through their children’s middle school experience.
Q: What interested you in the Elm assistant principalship, and how do you think your experience at the elementary school level will translate to middle school?
A: The school I’m coming from is run primarily like a middle school, so I’m very comfortable with middle school, which makes me very excited to be at Elm. I loved the feeling of community and family I got while I was interviewing, and then just meeting a few of the staff and students before the year ended made me feel very welcome and excited to be a part of the team.
Q: You have a second master's degree, an M.A. in school leadership from Concordia University Chicago. What do you think your strengths will be as an administrator?
A: I’m a good communicator, I’m organized and get things done! I feel like all of these attributes will help me in my new role as an administrator.
Q: What will your main responsibilities be as Elm assistant principal?
A: I will be working with athletics, attendance, student issues, staff needs. Pretty much anything and everything!
Q: Once you’re on the job at Elm, what will your priorities be as you get ready for the 2018-19 school year?
A: Forming strong relationships with students, staff and the community.
Q: I noticed that when you were at Alsup Elementary in Colorado, you organized an NFL Play 60 event. Elm just finished its first year involved in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. In fact, an Elm 8th grader who just graduated was one of the two Illinois student ambassadors for the program. What are your thoughts about the value of Play 60? Is this the kind of program you would like to promote at Elm? If so, why?
A: I like the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. I think it’s a great way for students to advocate for being active every day. I would love to promote this at Elm. This is another way for students to be continue to be active and for the school to promote a life of activity.
Q: Who have been some of your major professional influences or mentors, and what lessons have you learned from them?
A: My first principal, Elizabeth Webb, is one of my major professional influences. The most important thing she taught me is that I’m never done learning and every day is a new adventure.
Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in going into the field of education?
A: Be open minded, get to know your students, push yourself outside your comfort zone and never stop pushing the envelope!
Q: What are some of your interests outside of work?
A: Outside of work I enjoy running, lifting weights and yoga. I like to spend time with my family, friends and dogs. I love to travel, cook and watch college football! Roll Tide!
Q: Would you like to tell us anything about your family?
A: My husband’s name is Steve, I have a 16-month-old named AJ, and three of the craziest dogs you’ll ever meet. Their names are Louis, Auggie and Penelope.
Some of Ms. Groeneveld's Favorites
Elm students and parents might enjoy some "fun facts" about their new assistant principal!
► Favorite TV show when you were in middle school?
“Saved by the Bell.”
► Favorite TV show as an adult?
Anything on The Food Network, HGTV or College Gameday.
► Favorite movie when you were in middle school?
► Favorite movie as an adult?
“Christmas Vacation” or “Wedding Crashers.”
► Favorite book when you were in middle school?
► Favorite book as an adult?
“Turtles All The Way Down.”
► Favorite movie about teaching or education?
“The Blind Side.”
► Favorite food?
Meatballs and salad!
► Favorite sports team?
Chicago White Sox, Blackhawks, Bears and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
► Favorite song?
“Simply the Best” by Tina Turner.