Loudoun County, Va. (September 10, 2014) – Shontel Simon is just like Colin Kaepernick.
Except for the tattoos.
And the whole kissing the biceps thing.
How then is the new principal of Forest Grove like the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback?
“He owns it.
“He owns where he’s going. He has a plan. To get there sometimes you have to have a little more confidence than you probably should, but you have to be able to see that vision…
“You have to have a little confidence and swagger, but you have to channel it to keep the kids in line first.”
Football is actually the reason Simon finds herself in Loudoun County.
She was the nanny for Pro Bowl offensive lineman Ray Brown when Brown played for the 49ers between 1996 and 2001. She and the Brown family became extremely close. After Brown returned to the Redskins in 2004, Simon’s husband, Ahmad, came east for a visit.
“My husband came to a birthday party and it was like ‘We’ve got to move here!’ I came and I got a job within a month… The schools and the community are what attracted us, having two kids.”
Simon started her teaching career in her native San Jose, Calif. She said the Sterling Park area is like the one she grew up in. “This is where I’m from.”
Simon comes to Forest Grove after four years as the assistant principal of Sully Elementary. (She also has been a third grade teacher and administrative intern at Newton-Lee Elementary.) “I come from a community exactly like Sully… The first school I taught at was a lot like these communities…
“Sterling is definitely a representation of what really is out there. There’s a mix. When I had an ice cream social here I saw so many different nationalities represented… So many different families coming from so many different backgrounds. That’s where the real world is.”
Simon wants to empower families in her school so that they can do the best for their children. “They want what’s best for their kids, but they may not be able to afford it. They may not be able to provide it, but they’re expecting it and they’re wanting it. I want to make sure that they get that.”
Getting those needs met means building a caring community in the school, she added.
“I want to build a community. We had that community at Sully. It was very important. It was the whole child. It was not just making sure they had what they needed during the day, but making sure they had what they needed in the evening. Do they have enough to eat? Do they have some other thing that everyone should be provided but they don’t have?… We can’t worry so much about what they don’t have, but we do have to make sure they have it while they’re here.
“Creating a community focused on the child; making sure they have their instruction, making sure their needs are provided for as much as possible.”
Towards this end, Simon is starting a Backpack Buddy program at Forest Grove with the help of a nearby restaurant. This will give students in need food for weekends and holidays.
Moving to Forest Grove isn’t a great physical change for Simon.
“It changes my commute by two minutes. That’s it; two extra minutes. It’s definitely a different community, but its roots are the same.”
Taking on the principal’s role, however, is a much different journey.
“You still have your mind in the job the assistant principal would be doing. It’s very task-driven, whereas this is very broad. What’s next? There’s not a task I need to complete, but I have this ‘to-do’ list. Not being task-driven; being more focused on kids and instruction. What’s going to be putting those kids in the forefront?”
Besides being a principal, Simon also is a mom. (Her two daughters attend Stone Hill Middle School and Rosa Lee Carter Elementary.) Being a parent in the school system gives added emphasis to Simon’s role as an administrator. “It keeps it all in perspective. What I want for my kids, I want for these kids. I won’t settle for anything less than that.”
Back to football…
Ahmad Simon still roots for his hometown team, the 49ers. “Our basement is a red room full of 49er memorabilia,” said his wife.
Shontel Simon roots for the Carolina Panthers, for whom Ray Brown is an assistant offensive line coach. “Since we live in Virginia without our family; he’s who we have got for a family.”
Family ties go only so far, however.
Simon said she wasn’t about to move to Buffalo when Brown was hired as a coach by the Bills in 2008. (Native Californians don’t do well with lake-effect snow.)
“I drew the line.”