Staff Focus: Kimberlyn Pratesi, Principal, Hammond Elementary School
March 14th, 2018
Hammond Elementary School Principal Kimberlyn Pratesi’s passion for education has never wavered, from her childhood days playing school in her basement to winning this year’s HCPSS 2018 Principal of the Year award. “I have always loved learning and loved school,” Pratesi said. “Most importantly, I’m here to touch lives and make someone’s day. Anything I can do to build people up–that’s what’s most important to me.”
Coming from humble roots, Pratesi’s calling to be an educator was encouraged early on by a strong network of family and teachers. Pratesi came from a working class family in Anne Arundel County who strongly promoted the value of an education. She saw the importance of learning as she witnessed her father attend college while she was in elementary school. Her elementary teachers supported her interest by giving her worksheets to practice teaching at home and by inviting her to help in the younger classrooms.
Pratesi said, “When people learn that I received FARMs (free and reduced meals) in elementary school, they could view me as someone who might not have reached this potential. But I didn’t let that stop me because I was surrounded by inspirational people in my family and schooling. My background has helped me connect with lots of people from different walks of life, and it’s helped me as a principal to have compassion and to understand.”
With the support Pratesi received growing up, she in turn has always felt driven to work at the elementary level where she can help lay the foundation of lifelong learning for the next generation. She is a hands-on, involved principal who always makes herself available for her students, staff and families.
Hammond Elementary School Instructional Technology Teacher Greg Walsh said, “Kimberlyn is the first person to greet our Hammond Elementary School scholars in the morning, and the last one waving goodbye to them. She creates an atmosphere of genuine care and love here at Hammond Elementary, so students feel both comfortable and energized to learn. She has taught us all to learn by listening to our students, each other, and our own hearts.”
Pratesi’s commitment to family engagement has been key throughout her career. She said, “I believe parents are a child’s first teachers, so anything we can do to help families and bring them in as partners is going to benefit the child. And that looks different for different families.”
Notably, Pratesi led two school community transitions, with the opening of Dayton Oaks Elementary School and after the redistricting of Hammond Elementary School. Pratesi understood that to establish Dayton Oaks as a new school, it involved “bringing two communities together, preserving some traditions while forming our own.” For Hammond Elementary, Pratesi visited the homes of many of the new families to better understand their needs. This helped the school become more inclusive of families with economic challenges and supportive of its growing ESOL population.
Two of Pratesi’s major initiatives at Hammond Elementary highlight her continuing focus on positivity and relationships. She has changed the school’s culture by challenging the community to take on a “growth mindset,” encouraging students and staff to prioritize persistence and development over current accomplishments. And with her Just One Campaign, each staff member calls one family to personally invite them to a school event, so they feel more comfortable in actively participating in the school community.
Pratesi has been an active leader in the elementary education field for nearly three decades, in Howard County and beyond. She has spent her entire career in HCPSS elementary schools, first as a classroom teacher, then as an instructional team leader, assistant principal and now a principal. She has also served as the president and editor of the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, and as an adjunct instructor at Howard Community College and McDaniel College.