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- Heritage Elementary
Heritage Principal Kim Cura will be Continuing her Service at a Higher Level
Kim Cura has risen to the top of two distinct professions through a combination of passion, determination, drive, faith and, above all, a mother’s compassion and nurturing nature.
After a successful career in corporate America, she entered, at the age of 30, the education field, eventually rising through the ranks to become Principal of Heritage Elementary School.
Now, after nearly a decade at the South Side school, Principal Cura is leaving to become the district’s Executive Director of Elementary Education: an administrative position that will allow her to employ her leadership skills and compassion-driven experience to improve the elementary educational experience district-wide.
Principal Cura exudes positivity, patience and understanding: traits she developed early on while working as a pharmacy technician in a bustling Denver area King Soopers.
“Working in a pharmacy, you learn quickly how to deal with people who are upset,” she said.
A proud Pueblo native and product of District 60 – “Go Wildcats” – Principal Cura attended Metropolitan State College in Denver with a goal of eventually becoming a pharmacist. This despite the fact that her mother Lupe Beltran – who taught Kindergarten at Eva Baca Elementary for 32 years – saw in her daughter a future successful educator.
“But really, I didn’t think that teaching was my passion or my purpose,” Principal Cura said. “So I became a pharmacy tech, and felt that it could be a good career path.”
After applying for pharmacy school and being placed on a waitlist, Principal Cura took a year of prerequisite courses.
“And Organic Chemistry made me change my mind,” she said. “I thought, ‘OK. Not for me.’”
She did, however, remain with King Soopers, eventually working up and into the corporate office in the payroll department.
“That’s where I started building my customer service,” she said of her 11-year stint with King Soopers.
With a child on the way, Principal Cura and her husband left Denver to return to Pueblo, where in 2001, both entered a teacher-in-residency program at Cesar Chavez Academy.
“I taught Kindergarten and eventually got my teaching degree,” said Principal Cura, who later taught at Spann and Park View elementary schools.
The transition from corporate offices into a classroom filled with children was not without challenges.
“I fell right into it, but it wasn’t without bruises, cuts and scrapes,” Principal Cura said. “I literally cried every day after school. Initially, I thought: ‘How hard can Kindergarten be? They’re 5. They’ll listen.’
“It was the hardest job I ever loved.”
For that entire first year, “master teacher” Mother Lupe served as her daughter’s mentor, coach and supporter.
“And that’s really where my path of loving what I do began,” Principal Cura said.
As it turned out, Mother Lupe was right.
Having established leadership skills during her decade with King Soopers, Principal Cura began to set her sights beyond the classroom. After earning a Master’s degree in Literacy, she was accepted into a district-offered leadership program and later, with a scholarship, earned an endorsement in Leadership through Adams State University.
“Right after that, I was an adjunct professor/teacher at Adams State, teaching Master’s level classes on the weekends, while I was still teaching at Park View,” she explained. “Then, Pueblo Community College asked me to teach some classes.
“And that’s when I started thinking, ‘Wow. I kind of like being with adults and getting on my platform as to what’s important in education.’”
After serving as an Elementary Literacy Specialist with the district for a year-and-a-half, Principal Cura was encouraged to apply for the Principalship at Heritage.
And in 2012, a new leader of the Eagles landed.
“It was a huge change from everything else I had ever done,” Principal Cura said of assuming the reins of the Title 1 school. “Nothing prepares you for it, because of the scope of the hats you have to wear.”
With an undergraduate degree in Psychology, Principal Cura learned early on it was going to come in handy.
“I jokingly used to ask myself, ‘When am I ever going to use that degree?,’” she said. “As a Principal, I use it every day: to communicate with adults, with parents, with kids in trauma. There’s just so many hats I have to wear.”
Principal Cura described her first day as Heritage’s leader as “exciting and overwhelming: the responsibility of taking care of all these kids and really helping all the adults do their best. Now, I was responsible for a building, and I always took that very seriously. My sole responsibility was to keep this building safe and to promote a rigorous environment for learning.”
Without an Assistant Principal or Dean of Students on staff, learning the ropes of Principalship was, for the most part, a “learn as you go” experience.
“The district provided a supervisor, which definitely helped, but I think a lot of the things you learn are from colleagues you can talk openly with,” she explained. “It’s a lot of on-the-job learning and in my career path, every step has been on-the-job training.
‘Show me what to do’ and then I jump in, get my hands dirty, and ask a lot of questions.’”
From the outset of her time at Heritage, Principal Cura’s overriding goal was one of support for her staff – “in any way, shape or form, so they could be the best to support our kids.”
“And I think I’ve done that,” she added. “I put their physical and emotional health, and their academic needs first: because if they are good, they’re good to our kids. It has to start with the staff.”
A total “people person,” Principal Cura said she is most proud of the relationships she has built while leading Heritage.
“Not just relationships with staff, but with families. My families have my personal cell number and I make it a point to reach out to them. I tell them, ‘If you need something, you call me. And if it’s after hours, text me.’”
In 2019, Principal Cura and Heritage received the Centers of Excellence Award from the Colorado Department of Education: an honor bestowed on public schools with a student population comprised of at least 75 percent at-risk pupils that demonstrate sizeable progress in English language arts and math as measured by the Colorado Growth Model.
That year, Heritage was one of only a handful of schools statewide to receive the accolade.
“It was a highlight for me, but only because I know how hard my teachers work, and I don’t think people recognize or realize all that takes place behind the scenes in a school year,” Principal Cura said. “Although I was aware of it, the teachers who work endlessly were able to be recognized for their hard work.”
Principal Cura hopes that once she leaves Heritage, she will be remembered for her “compassion, my integrity and that I would always lead with a humbled heart. Yes, I sit in this seat, but I did whatever needed to be done in the classroom, or in the building.
“If I needed to clean up a wet spot. If I needed to calm a child down. If I need to teach a lesson or cover a classroom. My Principal’s office was not my domain: my domain was in the trenches.”
As Executive Director of Elementary Education, Principal Cura will continue her mission of service, just at a higher level.
“It will be an opportunity to share my strengths of compassion, integrity and service,” she said. “It felt right when I applied. It’s not about a stepping stone to end my career, it’s about, ‘How can I serve my community?’ And what better way than to be in this position, to be able to inspire Principals to show compassion in their work.”
Leaving, however, will come with some emotional strings.
“Yes, I have shed some tears, because I know I’m going to miss the relationships with teachers, and the community a school offers: the heartbeat of laughter, not only from kids but adults, and the excitement of learning and teaching,” Principal Cura said. “I’m going to miss seeing kids, hugging kids, comforting kids.
“I’m going to miss that.”
And while she is soon to have a new title, it won’t replace the one that ranks above all.
“My proudest title is that of ‘Mom,’” Principal Cura said. “My two kids are my world, and when I come to Heritage every day, I get to expand that title to all these kids.”
Online Kindergarten teacher Meegan Toomey has worked alongside Principal Cura since she arrived at Heritage.
“An absolutely fabulous person,” Mrs. Toomey said. “There is no better. Her faith, her kindness, her thoughtfulness, her consideration is truly unparalleled. The understanding she has for teachers and their families, males and females, creates a cozy, community feeling.
“She’s just amazing.”