April 1–5 is National Assistant Principals Week. In honor of it, Principal Leadership asked Mario Balderrama, the assistant principal of Vail Academy and High School in Tucson, AZ, and Rhoda Núñez-Donnelly, an assistant principal of Harper’s Choice Middle School in Columbia, MD, what this special time means to them.

Assistant Principal Mario Balderrama with members of National Honor Society and student council at Vail Academy and High School. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIO BALDERRAMA

What does AP Week mean to you?

Balderrama: It’s an opportunity to express gratitude towards assistant principals like us who play a crucial role in our education system. We work tirelessly to ensure our schools function smoothly and that students have access to the best possible learning opportunities.

Núñez-Donnelly: APs help foster a positive school culture, and we also take on the bulk of engaging with students who need disciplinary guidance. Our efforts contribute significantly to the success of our schools.

For me, AP Week is the perfect time to reflect on the great work that we do, celebrate our victories, and uplift the work of other assistant principals. There is strength in numbers, and we can’t do this work without each other’s support.

How do you plan to celebrate this week?

Balderrama: I’ll celebrate by expressing gratitude to mentors and leaders who have helped me along the way. I appreciate the work that others do in this challenging profession. It’s inspiring to learn about the accomplishments of APs in school districts across the country.

Núñez-Donnelly: Every year, during AP Week, I schedule time for myself. I make time to get a haircut, have my nails done, and get a facial or a massage. The goal is to relax and enjoy an afternoon with no interruptions. Our jobs are so demanding that we must prioritize time to relax and unplug. Giving ourselves the gift of serenity is necessary for maintaining our mental and emotional well-being.

What’s your favorite part of being an AP?

Assistant Principal Rhoda Núñez-Donnelly with students at Harper’s Choice Middle School. PHOTO COURTESY OF RHODA NÚÑEZ-DONNELLY

Balderrama: Having the ability to use my voice to help others. Assistant principals wear many hats, and we understand the importance of maintaining connections with the classroom. Serving as an assistant principal is the perfect middle ground between structure and support for students, parents, and teachers. Identifying problems and working with stakeholders to find solutions is a part of my role. I’m grateful for those who model how to effectively carry this out and coach me when I need direction.

Núñez-Donnelly: I love the kids—they make my day. I find it especially rewarding to witness the transformation middle schoolers make from when they enter as sixth graders to when they transition to high school. I love the silliness of middle schoolers and their hope, wonder, and determination. I am driven by the potential impact I can have in their lives, and I go to work every day for the fulfillment they bring to mine.