MNPS Voices: Dr. Joseph Kelly, AVID Coordinator

MNPS Voices: Dr. Joseph Kelly, AVID Coordinator
Posted on 08/30/2023
Dr. Joseph Kelly speaking in class
Joseph Kelly in class with students

While he’s fairly new to MNPS, Dr. Joseph Kelly is in his 27th year as an educator – a journey he started as the groundskeeper of a California high school that he ultimately led as the executive principal.

“This is when the promise of education works,” Kelly said, referring to his full-circle experience.

Kelly has served as this district’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) coordinator since the start of the 2022-2023 school year, overseeing a rapidly expanding program that promotes college and career readiness by raising students’ expectations of themselves.

AVID was founded by Mary Catherine Swanson in 1980 with 32 students at Clairmont High School in San Diego. More than 40 years later, it serves more than two million students across 8,000 schools, including 60 in MNPS. AVID’s goal was, and still is, to bridge the opportunity gap in college graduation rates among diverse and underrepresented groups.

Throughout his career, Kelly has been able to teach and support AVID, even implementing it schoolwide as an executive principal, making his school a national demonstration school for AVID in just four years. That was not an easy task, but Kelly believes setting the bar high and having a plan and a support system can help you accomplish the goal.

“I really enjoy helping principals, teachers, and students shock themselves with accomplishing big goals.”

Seeking a Bigger Platform for Service

Before he came to know AVID, Kelly had other plans and dreams. While working as a groundskeeper, he was also attending school with a goal of becoming a youth pastor. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry from Hope International University.

But he said he felt a calling to serve children on a larger scale, so he continued to pursue his education, obtaining a master’s degree in education from Hope International. He eventually acquired his teaching credentials and became an English teacher and the first AVID teacher in the city of Palmdale. Later, he earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Kelly ended his 25-year career at Antelope Valley Union High School District in California as the director of education services, with two national AVID demonstration schools under his belt, before transitioning to Nashville to amplify the presence of AVID in MNPS.

“I’ve always been committed to AVID in California, so coming here to MNPS just seemed like a natural fit,” he said.

Inspired by Students who Persevere

When Kelly arrived at MNPS in 2022, AVID was in less than 20 schools. The district now has 60 AVID sites on all tier levels, including elementary, middle, high schools, alternative schools, and MNPS Virtual School. Joseph Kelly speaking in a classroom

Kelly trains MNPS principals and teachers with instructional support based on the needs of the schools and students. He believes setting high but attainable expectations for students, equipping them to meet those goals, and celebrating student success is the best practice.

“Being a principal was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had; there is no magic,” he says. “But helping them be the best versions of themselves, equipping teachers to be the best versions of themselves, ultimately leads to kids being the best versions of themselves.”

He believes there is nothing greater than being in the classroom, with one exception: impacting students on a larger level with programs such as AVID.

Kelly is excited about continuing to fulfill his role as AVID coordinator, and he is just as inspired by the grit and drive he sees in the people he gets to work with daily.

“AVID is about helping you get through something hard. So, when life gives you an obstacle, you can either use it to be better or not,” he says. “When I see teachers, kids, and principals go through hard things and I see them persevere, it gives me satisfaction because it also inspires me not to quit.”

AVID in Our Schools

The AVID approach is used in 60 Metro Schools. Visit the AVID page for a complete list and more information. 

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