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Fort Worth ISD Names 2023-24 District Assistant Principals of the Year

Olivia Keener Wins District 2023-24 Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year

Part of being an elementary school assistant principal is making sure the campus is warm and welcoming while still teaching students rules and routines.

Someone who is empathetic, funny, kind, respectful, and hardworking is the perfect kind of leader for such a campus. Which is why Olivia Keener thrives in her role as assistant principal at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

No two days are the same for an assistant principal, she said. In fact, the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of the job is part of what draws her to the position. Keener enjoys the challenges. She loves helping shape the culture of the school, and she never shies away from the hard work. 

Her leadership and connection is what sets her apart as the 2023-24 Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year.

“I am truly honored,” Keener said. “I was extremely surprised to be celebrated as a finalist. And I was just overwhelmed. Every day I come to work, and I work for children. I always tell everyone, ‘I don't really need the celebrations.’ But it felt amazing. It was really, really amazing.”

In her role as assistant principal, Keener believes the most satisfying part is the connections she gets to make with families. She also gets to work closely with teachers and help them grow so students can succeed. 

“I always say my door is open. You can always come to me if you need anything,” Keener said. “I truly, truly am a servant leader.”

When someone walks into her office, Keener doesn’t just focus on the purpose of the meeting. She spends time getting to know everyone as a person, learning about their families and interests. Those kinds of connections help build trust to better serve the campus and students.

Keener works hard, and it’s because she truly believes that a quality education can impact not just one student — but generations.

“My hopes for my students are that they will take education seriously, that they understand the importance of education, and that they acquire a skill set that would allow them to be great contributors to the community, to Fort Worth,” she said. 

As for her hopes for herself, Keener will keep cultivating her leadership skills. She is in her last year of a doctoral program in educational leadership. She hopes to use that degree to continue to serve.

“If I can utilize my skill set to make that happen, I will,” she said. “I stand on the shoulders of some amazing educators and I want to be that for the students and the community.”

Anel Saldivar Wins District 2023-24 Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year

For Anel Saldivar, the work is personal. She sees herself in a lot of her students at North Side High School. She was born and raised in Fort Worth and is a first generation student.

She set out on her education journey to break cycles in her family, and she helps many of her students do exactly that.

Saldivar’s commitment to not only her students but also to her community is what allows her to help Northside families. And her hard work, dedication, and passion led the district to name her the 2023-24 Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year.

“I can honestly say that once I became an educator with Fort Worth, every principal since then has made me who I am and has molded and motivated me to continue to grow in education,” Saldivar said. “What got me to being an educator is definitely the change that I wanted to make in my family. But what has gotten me where I am is definitely every principal that has ever supervised me.”

Saldivar is carrying those lessons into her leadership. She knows that administrators are there to help improve the lives of students, but they still need to work as a team to do so. Her team at North Side High School encourages each other.

There are hard days, but she said she and her team remind each other why they’re there. 

Saldivar wants to unite her team to help students succeed, whatever that path looks like for them.

“I just want them to know what a great life that they can have, that whatever the case is —  whether that's college, career, military, whatever — the choice is going to work,” she said. 

But no matter what, she still tries to encourage students to take some community college classes, even if they didn’t choose the college route. 

“It's really just to have a better life for themselves, for their families, and to potentially change if there's a cycle that needs to change in their family life,” Saldivar said. “It's just about being better and doing better and serving the community and also coming back and helping support Northside.”

As part of an assistant principal leadership academy, Saldivar participated in a yearlong project aimed at improving graduation rates on her campus with targeted interventions.

“Our campus is predominantly Hispanic. I am Hispanic, I am a mom, I am first generation. It's very personal,” she said. “And I know as a first generation student the impact I have made in my family and in my nieces and my nephews. And so, so many of our students are first generation. The sky's the limit in the changes and the impact that it will make for them.”