August Update

Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals

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Welcome Back!

We hope you have had a wonderful summer here in Alaska, or wherever your travels may have taken you! As the weather gets cooler, it is time to turn our attention to another school year that is sure to be filled with lots of changes, excitement, and learning! Here at AAESP, we are looking forward to connecting with each of you and providing any supports you need throughout the year!

New this year! Watch for our monthly newsletter to be in your inbox the first Wednesday of each month. We are looking forward to sharing important association information with you and also highlighting some of our members and their schools throughout the year. Note: If you have changed schools or districts, please be sure to reach out and let us know your new contact information so we have that correct in our files. Additionally, please be sure to check out the membership section below which includes information on how to update your membership for the FY23 school year, and feel free to share this newsletter with any new principal colleagues that may have joined your district this year, or aspiring principals that you may know or be mentoring!

We are here for you, whatever your needs are. Reach out at any time!


Jennifer Schmitz, Executive Director

Jen Rinaldi, Deputy Director

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Hello Alaska Association of Elementary School Principal Members,

I hope this finds you well rested after your summer adventures and excited for the new school year.

Many of you know me from around the state, but I would like to introduce myself, and I hope to meet you in person soon.

I am originally from Maine and have lived in the Kuskokwim delta for the past 19 years. I met my wife, a teacher while teaching in the village of Tuntutliak. I am blessed to be a father of five beautiful children. Our oldest lives in Fairbanks and works for NOAA. Our second child attends Mount Edgecumbe, following his mother's family tradition. My daughter, who is ten, has Downs Syndrome. Her disability led me to serve on the Alaska Governor's Council on Disability and Special Education in 2019. This experience allowed me to meet advocates and individuals dedicated to improving the lives of all children, and I believe it has helped me in my profession. My two youngest boys attend Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, the Yup'ik immersion school in Bethel, where I am currently the principal.

This school year will be my 22nd year in Education, 20 of which I am proud to say have been in Alaska. For 16 of the 22 years, I have been in Administration with the Lower Kuskokwim School District.

I look forward to talking, learning, celebrating, and facing challenges with you this year. If you need an ear to listen, a person to advocate for you, or a colleague to talk with, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Best wishes on a great school year!

Joshua Gill

AAESP President

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AAESP's 2022 National Distinguished Principal!

Denise Kelly is the principal of Sterling Elementary School in Sterling, Alaska.

She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1998, then added a Master’s Degree in Education Administration and Supervision from the University of Phoenix. She also received a Graduate Certificate in Restorative Practices from the International Institute of Restorative Practices in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Denise began her administrative career as an interim principal at Kilohana Elementary School in Kaunakakai, Hawaii in 2009 and after moving to Alaska in 2014, started her career in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District at Sterling Elementary. She is currently in her eighth year as the principal at Sterling Elementary.

Denise was a finalist for the Kindness Experience Award from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation in 2019 and received a Human Dignity Award from the Victory Over Violence Organization in 2010. She currently volunteers at the Sterling Senior Center and Community Center.

During the AAESP selection process, one of Denise's colleagues shared that she is a leader who “creates a positive school culture focused on citizenship and the greater community. Her students are engrossed in how their actions impact their daily lives.” Denise believes in balancing leadership and management to make sure her students are surrounded by effective and caring people. She believes that the crux of leadership is motivating people and that leadership is shared amongst her school, and the larger, community.

Denise will travel to Washington DC in October 2022 for two days of activities planned to honor and bring well-deserved recognition to the elementary administrators selected by their respective states.

Congratulations, Principal Kelly!

Fall Membership Drive

We are gearing up for our fall membership drive! If you have not renewed your membership for the upcoming school year, please do so today to ensure your membership does not lapse. 2022-2023 Membership Forms are linked below. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to Jennifer Schmitz, Executive Director, at
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AAESP Partner of the Month!

AAESP is excited to offer partnership opportunities for local businesses! If you have a business connection that would make a great partner for our association or would like a sponsorship flyer to share with a business or organization, please contact Jen Rinaldi, Deputy Director at

Professional Development Opportunities

  • Many of you took part in the UAA classes we offered last spring. We designed these classes to help you gain credits for things you are already doing and/or to encourage you to set up PLC’s, book studies, etc. with your staff in a way that you can all earn credit. We will be offering this again this fall (you can retake!) for 1, 2 or 3 credits. Join us at our all-member meeting at the end of the month to learn more about this.

  • Your membership in NAESP offers you many “perks.” One is a variety of learning opportunities. If you are heading back to school and have noon supervisors who need training, check out these opportunities at the following link.

  • If you have PD needs at your school that you think we may be able to help with, please reach out! We are happy to do some research for you, look at grant opportunities, and/or try to set something up that will help.

A recent review of our bylaws by a committee led to some recommended changes. This document is currently out for review and will be voted on later this month. They were sent out via email to you on July 20th if you would like to take a look and provide feedback.

We are also in need of some members to join us on the AAESP Board of Directors. We will be electing a state representative, a president-elect, and a secretary. Following the election, we may be adding 1-2 regional representatives to assure we are represented by people from districts around the state. If you are interested in joining this GREAT Board of Directors (or know someone who would be fabulous) please email one of the members of the nominating committee below.

Nominations Committee:

Deanna Beck

Kim Bautista

Lynn Mayberry-Burke

Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals

Jennifer Schmitz, Executive Director

Jen Rinaldi, Deputy Director