Joyful. Caring. Positive. Motivating. Enthusiastic.
These are the superpowers that come to mind when you get to know today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Ashley Kelly for more than a decade and have personally witnessed how she cares deeply and finds joy in unexpected places (like a shiny pink tinsel Christmas tree). And one of her superpowers I admire most is how she enthusiastically loves her people.
I’m so excited to introduce you to #RealLifeWonderWoman Ashley Kelly!
KR: Welcome, Ashley! Can you tell us a little about who you are?
AK: I am a mom to two kiddos who keep me busy and fill my heart with so much joy! Aubrey is four and Lucas will be two this spring. I married my high school sweetheart, John, ten years ago. A fun tidbit, John and I were prom king and queen in high school.
I have a degree in Elementary Education from SCSU and a Masters Degree in Teaching and Learning from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. I am also a “dog mom” to three pups. We lost our oldest dog, Dakota, who was 15 years old this fall. He was my number one support through all of the training, activations, and deployment that took John away from home. I am so glad he was ours and that I got to love him for so long, but I think I’ll forever have a sadness in my heart for him. John and I moved back to our hometown two years ago and we love our community! The parks, walking trails, community events, locally owned restaurants have kept us busy. This year I began teaching in Sartell, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach in the incredible district that we attended. Our daughter likes to remind me, “Mom, you teach in my school!”
John has been in the military for 13 years and that has greatly shaped our lives. I appreciate the time he is home, and never take for granted a single day together. He had a deployment in 2014-2015 that was 303 days long. I learned so much about myself during that time and realized that I am a strong woman who can do a lot, but I certainly need to lean on my family and friends. Afterall, no one can do it all solo. That lesson has proven valuable in balancing work and running our household. John is a K9 officer for the Department of Corrections and has a full schedule, so I’ve been reminded I need to ask others for help. Thank God for incredibly supportive parents!
KR: Please tell us more about what brings you joy and fulfillment.
AK: Time with my family and friends fills my cup. I love the weekends spent at our seasonal camper in the summer. Swimming in the lake, playing at the beach, pontoon rides, bon fires, and so much more keep a permanent smile on our faces when we are at the lake!
I love days spent at home with nothing on our schedule. Getting to play outside, go for a walk, read books, or play a game together makes me happy. I love the quality time without distractions and having to rush to get somewhere.
Life as a first grade teacher makes my heart so happy.
Being able to help my students learn, explore, and grow is such a rewarding experience. Watching students work hard and make connections and have “ah ha moments” will always be exciting. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have a job that I love going to each day. The future of our country is sitting in my classroom each day, how cool is that? I cannot wait to watch all of the amazing things they’ll continue to do. My students, their families, my colleagues, and the entire community are amazing and so supportive of our students and schools!
I am also an Independent Color Street Stylist for a fun way to interact with women all across the country. I have met such fun people sharing fun nail polish that makes us feel more put together in the comfort of our homes. As a busy working mama with two young kids, I do not have time to go to the salon so this fits into my schedule perfectly.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
AK: I am a hard worker who always gives 100% to everything I do. If someone gives me a task, I will not stop until it is done to the best of my ability. I am driven and motivated to succeed. I got my masters degree while teaching full time, working opposite shifts as my husband, and had a baby during the middle of my program. I figure if I can manage all of that, I can handle anything. I love to learn and would be in school as a student for the rest of my life if it was something I could afford. Since that’s not an option, I’m always reading books, blogs, and listening to podcasts. A lifelong reader is a lifelong learner. That’s my goal for my children and my students. I am also caring and empathetic. I love making connections with others. I will do what I can to help others and am always ready to listen and offer support to my family, friends, colleagues, and students. As a result, I feel everything very deeply which can be a lot to carry. I recently refocused on doing what is best for my health. Eating healthy foods, exercising, taking time to slow down, and connecting with friends and family which has been a challenge in the midst of a pandemic.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
AK: My grandma Elverna is an incredibly inspirational woman in my life. When I think of a strong, brave, and resilient woman she comes to mind! She is 91 years old and lives in her own home. She sews for people who bring her projects, cooks, goes for daily walks, mows her lawn, and always has the tastiest made from scratch cookies. She has a heart of gold and would do anything to help anyone. When my grandpa passed away nearly 16 years ago she had to learn so many new skills and take on new roles. She did it with grace and bravery. She is my reminder that no matter what unexpected situations or challenges arise in my life, I can handle anything.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
AK: I would love the ability to freeze time. My kids are growing up far too quickly and I would love to slow that down. I would also appreciate the extra time to tackle more of my to-do list each day.
KR: What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
AK: I love reading, going for walks, taking my kids to the park, looking at Christmas lights as a family, the Country Lights Festival is one of our favorite places to visit. I enjoy camping at our seasonal site, fishing in the winter, pontoon rides, and am hoping to start running again. Having coffee with friends or sitting on a patio of a local establishment in the summer when I have a free moment. I also enjoy scrapbooking, but since having children I haven’t had much time to do that. We don’t watch many sports, but our whole family loves watching NDSU football! Go Bison!
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
AK: Slow down, visit your loved ones, never take a single moment for granted, give big hugs, and always tell people you love them. Life is far too short and you never know when a goodbye hug will be your last.