Dr. Mario Vanheuckelom is excited to have been given the opportunity to be the principal at AFNORTH Elementary School and it is his goal to continue to utilize his experience, knowledge, and passion for learning to serve the students and community. He is dedicated to hard work, yet knows that preserving balance between work and home life, and sustaining a good sense of humor are key elements to success.
Dr. Vanheuckelom was born in Belgium, and immigrated to the United States in 1992 at the age of 24. Shortly after becoming a U.S. resident, he began his education at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science with a minor in Human Resources from National University, San Diego. He continued his education by earning a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Azusa Pacific and received his Doctorate in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne in California.
Prior to accepting the position at AFNORTH ES, Dr. Vanheuckelom served as a teacher and an administrator for a total of 13 years in California. Within DoDEA he has served as the principal at SHAPE ES (2010 to 2014), SHAPE MS (2014 to 2019) and Lakenheath MS (2019 to 2022). During his time as a teacher in CA, he gained experience ranging within the K-8 level, one on one home hospital teacher, and teaching adult education. As an administrator he has provided leadership from General Education to the Moderate and Severe level. During his tenure at SHAPE American Elementary, the school was awarded the National Blue-Ribbon School award in 2012.
Dr. Vanheuckelom has been married to his lovely wife Michelle for 30 years, she is also a teacher, and they have three children. The Vanheuckelom family loves traveling, hiking, soccer, and spending time with friends and family.
He has been serving DoDEA for the past 12 years, collaboration with all, supporting DoDEA’s mission, and the vision for our school. He is excited to serve and become part of the AFNORTH community.
Donna Aponte has been an educator for 30 years. She began her educational career teaching 3rd grade at the American School in Puebla, Mexico. She then moved to Colorado and worked in public schools in Vail and Denver as a bilingual classroom teacher in grades 3, 4, and 2/3 multiage. In 1997, Ms. Aponte was awarded Teacher of the Year for Eagle County Schools. In 1999, she was awarded the Teacher of the Year by the Rotary Club in Denver. in 2000, she was hired by DoDEA and moved to the beautiful island of Okinawa. At Bechtel Elementary School, she spent nine years teaching Spanish Immersion classes in 3rd grade and 6th grade, as well as FLES. At Bechtel, she served on the school leadership team and led her school through multiple successful accreditation visits.
She moved to Stearley Heights Elementary as an Educational Technologist for six years, where she also was part of the school improvement leadership team. In 2015, she transferred with her family to the Netherlands, where she has been the Math Coach/Interventionist and STEM specialist for AFNorth International School and Kleine Brogel Elementary. During this time, she has worked with all grade levels and teachers to implement the new math standards and best practices. She has worked hard to develop relationships with students, teachers, parents and the community. She successfully implemented a STEM program from the ground up at both schools, which included robotics competitions for elementary students. She also initiated and launched a therapy dog program at AFNorth. For multiple years, Ms. Aponte served on the School Improvement committee at AFNorth.
Ms. Aponte loves spending time with her husband, three boys and their beloved dog Sadie. She loves watching her boys compete, and she and her husband are both passionate about working with young people and seeing them thrive in sports. She coached the AFNorth volleyball team and the US Navy Dragon Boat Team in Okinawa. Both experiences have afforded her an understanding in dealing with various cultures, parents, and communities.
Ms. Aponte earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Colorado State University, and later her master’s degree in School Administration from Michigan State University. She is honored to work with and among the military community and believes that a DoDEA education is one of the best. She is looking forward to continuing to work with her AFNorth and Kleine Brogel families as Assistant Principal and is committed to doing whatever it takes for students, teachers and her community.