Jessica Rios is a committed leader who has relentlessly served the children of Newark to ensure the high-quality education they receive prepares them to meet the challenges of the 21st century. She is ecstatic that her journey has brought her to Rafael Hernández Elementary School where she can use her experience and knowledge to create a nurturing environment that promotes academic growth as well as a safe and dynamic environment for students to explore and develop a passion for the performing arts and beyond.
Born and raised in the city of Newark to first-generation Puerto Rican migrants, Jessica Rios grew up surrounded by her beloved parents, siblings, and a tight-knit family of aunts, uncles, and cousins that occupied a three-block neighborhood. Immersed in the cultural traditions that were carried over by her family, she lived with Puerto Rican pride and the mantra that an education and hard work will help you achieve anything in life.
This proved real in May of 1999 when she became the first member of her family to obtain a Bachelor’s degree, graduating from the College of Saint Elizabeth with a B.A. in Communication. After some time in management, she decided that she wanted to give back to her community so other children could receive the support and inspiration that she did growing up. This led her to take on the challenge of shifting career tracks and obtaining the necessary credentials to become a certified teacher. Single, with two young daughters to raise, she persisted in completing the Early Childhood Education program at Bloomfield College in May of 2005, all while working as an alternate route teacher for the Newark Public Schools.
She spent the next 18 years of her career dedicated to the families and students of Newark. First, as a classroom Lead Teacher, followed by her 5 years as a Teacher Coach, at which time she pursued an executive MA in Educational Leadership from Seton Hall University where she graduated with honors. In 2019, she took on the role of Vice Principal of Early Childhood School North where for four years she used her background to mentor teachers and lead professional development while curating best practices, expanding systems, and supporting an inclusive environment.
Ms. Rios’s reputation as an educator has been highlighted by numerous recognitions and awards including Rocket Learning Teacher of the Year and Newark Public Schools Superintendent’s Educator Excellence Award.
Additionally, Ms. Rios serves as a country-wide early childhood curriculum consultant and an adjunct trainer for the Rutgers University School of Social Work, Institute for Families Grow NJ Kids Services. She is a mother to two amazing adult daughters, also Newark natives, and a doting grandmother to a little boy currently attending Newark Public Schools. Ms. Rios has a passion for reading, traveling, experiencing new adventures, and spending time with her cat, Squeakers.