“I am a teacher, feminist, and proud Latina. I love traveling, dancing & mission trips!” That is how Kelsie Rivera Aviles introduces herself on social media. While this is a powerful statement, I found that it only partially describes this dynamic woman.
28 Fortunate young people
Kelsie is focused, hardworking and dedicated to her students and her teaching profession. That commitment goes far beyond being a good subject matter expert. As a teacher to a class of 28 pre-schoolers at St Aloysius Gonzaga School in Bridgetown, Kelsie’s students are learning the importance of kindness, diversity and respect.
The heart of a nurturer
Her love for teaching began early in her life. Those close to Kelsie will tell you that she has the heart of a nurturer and she happily admits that she has always loved working with young people, even when she was one herself. When she was only seven, she taught her younger sister how to read, and as a young adult she tutored other ESL (English as a Second Language) students. As for becoming a teacher she says, “It always felt that it was meant to be. Let’s just say nobody was surprised when I decided to be a teacher.”
A sense for adventure
It would be an understatement to say Kelsie loves to travel. One of her earlier jobs was teaching first grade in Pristina, Kosovo and at only 26 she has already been to 14 countries. She speaks with seasoned experience about how each of her trips has been a unique cultural experience and how each of those experiences has refined her vision of a complex global community. The energy she puts into learning and respecting the diversity of our world is impressive and her travels, especially the mission trips, have increased her ability to see the world through a more loving lens. “It is a powerful experience working with kids who are hungry to learn even when they do not know if they will have dinner that night.”
The intentional traveler
Kelsie’s journey as an intentional traveler has given her a unique point of view that she brings experientially to her classroom. Her students may not realize the added value that she is brings to their lives, but us parents know that this is a good way for our children to start their educational journey. Kelsie does not take her travel experience for granted: “Whether it was helping at orphanages in Haiti when I was 18 or going to my mom’s birth place in Nicaragua to speak to 3,000 women about the power of forgiveness, travels have always allowed me to grow and serve others in all 14 countries I have been blessed to visit!”
Kelsie’s passion for her kids is unquestionable, as is her passion for equality, acceptance and opportunity for all. She is a sincere advocate for her gender, her culture, and she is determined to make a difference to her community, 28 pre-schoolers at a time.
She says it best: “My goal is to provide a safe place for children to learn and thrive.”
Just for fun
Q: Tell me about dancing.
A: I love dancing. It centers me and is a destressor. Being Latina, we are always dancing. My current dance love is the tango and when we get together it reaches far beyond the dance. Tango parties, known as “Milonga” are social events that are celebrations of life and a shared passion for music and dance.
Q: What has prepared you best for teaching?
A: I have had a diverse experience in my own education. I was a Montessori student who then became a traditional education student and saw the benefits and weaknesses of the different teaching styles. Now as a teacher, I can set the stage to bring the best of my experiences into my classroom.
Q: You seem called to this profession.
A: Absolutely. I was born to be a teacher. I even go to my students’ recitals and soccer games. Yep, I am that teacher. Each child is special and every one of them is my favorite in some unique way.
Q: How would those close to you describe you? What would they say about you?
A: I put my class first all the time, always. I am committed to teaching and it is part of my identity. I am expressive and theatrical. I hold the attention of 28 four year olds and nobody gets bored.
Q: Tell me some of your favorite things about our city.
A: I like that you are not bored here and there is so much to do. I love to go downtown with friends and enjoy our time together and the diversity of our culture here. That is how I discovered tango and Salsa on the Square.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Cincinnati?
A: Jeff Ruby’s – all the food is big and delicious. I love going to the Aronoff and then Ruby’s for dinner.
Q: Who is someone who has influenced you most?
A: My parents. My mom started the translation program for the Cincinnati Police. She would go on ride-a-longs to translate for the police, even at the crime scenes. She taught me the importance of reaching out to the community to be part of something positive and make a difference.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be?
A: I will travel anywhere, anytime, but Italy might be at the top of my list.
Q: What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
A: Freedom Riders, the documentary of struggle for racial justice. I also like The Count of Monte Christo, which I think is a powerful but underrated movie.
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: Education is very powerful. I tell my kids that when you learn something it is not just for you but it is also for you to share. And this is not just learning academia, but it is about learning to share and love people in your community.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: Travel more – every continent. Every place is different and there is no better way to live outside your comfort zone. Each trip changes the lens through which you see the world.
Q: What is your favorite music?
A: I like all kinds – Sara Brightman, India Arie, Cardi B
Q: What person, alive or passed would you like to have lunch with and why?
A: Maya Angelou. She was very wise, and her story is inspirational. Her poetry is honest, and I love her quotes and use them sometimes with my parents.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
A: I see myself teaching and working with kids – but I’m not sure what country.
Q: What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: People know that I love dancing but they may not realize how involved I have been at singing and acting as well. I was the lead in every single school play growing up. I also sang in the CCM Choir, which gave me the opportunity to be on stage with Tony Bennet.
Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
A: Welcoming, Acceptance, Love
Q: Who would you like to see nominated for this project, The Faces of Cincinnati?
A: Jordan Payne. We went to college together, both education majors. Jordan goes to troubled schools and integrates therapy and healing through gardening skills.
Q: What do you do for you?
A: I am a museum person. The kind of patron that can spend a day at a museum, reading every word and detail. And I dance!
Kelsie pours her heart into teaching, dancing and human rights. That is what makes her so honestly effective at what she does. She receives in life because of the way she gives. Quite amazing, actually!