Nilka Avilés, Ed.D.


Nilka Avilés, Ed.D., served as an IDRA senior education associate through 2022 and is now an IDRA consultant focusing on teacher professional development in college readiness and science, particularly, in serving emergent bilingual (English learner) students. She also focuses on principal leadership to improve preparation and effectiveness of principals and other school leaders to support high-poverty, low-performing schools to improve achievement of high need students.

Dr. Avilés directs the IDRA Reenergizing Leadership to Achieve Greater Student Success (RLSS) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. This project prepares university graduate master teachers to become instructional transformational school leaders. Dr. Avilés coaches current principals and school leadership teams to foster and leverage instruction schoolwide using promising asset-based practices to strengthen student learning and build school-community collaboration.

Dr. Avilés directed IDRA’s School TurnAround and Reenergizing for Success (STAARS) Leaders project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The project is enhancing and implementing a leadership pipeline that selects, prepares, places, supports, and retains school leaders and transformation teams for schools that are eligible to receive a school improvement grant.

She also has served as the site coordinator for the IDRA Valued Youth Partnership program in the New York City Public Schools District 10 and in various school districts in Texas.

Dr. Avilés leads IDRA’s Ventanilla de Orientación Educativa (VOE) in partnership with the Consulate of Mexico in San Antonio to help Mexican and Mexican American families navigate the U.S. education system and learn about important educational opportunities in both countries. VOE provides information on the civil rights of immigrant and emergent bilingual students at no cost to them. VOE also disseminates information on educational opportunities offered by the Mexican government for nationals abroad and develops various courses for immigrant parents. Local school districts refer families to the VOE to gather information with the services they can benefit from to succeed in our community.

Dr. Avilés is an adjunct professor for the College of Education and Human Development Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is a leadership coach for the Trinity Tomorrow’s Leaders Program for the College of Education Educational Leadership Department at Trinity University.

She earned an Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her dissertation title was “Examining the Components of the Early College High School Model and the Impact on the Participants in the Program.” She received her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Texas at San Antonio and her Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education, specializing in biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus.

During her exemplary career, Dr. Avilés was selected among educators throughout the nation to attend science symposiums in prestigious universities such as Princeton University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Texas Austin, University of Northern Colorado, and others. In the 1990-91 school year, Dr. Avilés was selected campus and district Teacher of the Year and was a nominee for the San Antonio Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching and recipient of the Sigma XI Outstanding Science Educator Award.

Dr. Avilés has worked in the governmental sector in Puerto Rico, serving as a teacher, personnel director assistant, and director of a cultural and recreational center. She later taught science in the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio along with teaching English as a second language and GED prep to adult learners. She later served as academic dean and then principal.

In 2004, she became the director of the Early College High School, a pioneer program in the state of Texas and of the University of Texas at San Antonio P-20 Initiatives Office.

In 1994, Dr. Avilés was promoted to the position of Academic Dean of Memorial High School. Under her leadership, Memorial rose to the top of the Edgewood district in the state TAAS testing scores. She set in motion a change to instill pride and a work ethic in teachers, pushing many to excellence.

After serving for five years as academic dean, Dr. Avilés was tapped by the district to open and lead the Above and Beyond Ninth Grade High School Initiative to serve students who were considered at-risk of dropping out of school, where, as a result, 114 of 118 students moved to the 10th grade, compared to 40 percent retention rates for ninth graders in the district and state.

Dr. Avilés served as principal at Gus García Middle School where she re-established the direction of the school and help change the culture and climate of the school. Two months into the 2000-01 school year, she was informed that an elementary would be transferring sixth-grade students and teachers to her school due to construction. She incorporated this new class of students into the campus and worked tirelessly to support the staff and establish a triad: building relationships with parents, teachers and students to increase academic and social excellence. Gus García Middle School quickly jumped to the top or near the top of TAAS scores in the district and in the city. Dr. Avilés served as lead principal for the secondary division, mentoring and assisting principals in the Edgewood ISD from 2002 to 2004.

Dr. Avilés’ nomination, as one of five state finalists for the HEB Excellence in Education Principal’s Award, was in recognition of an outstanding career and a passion for education. She has received numerous teaching awards of excellence and appreciation, but she most cherishes the former students who return, sharing their successes and how she has influenced their lives in a positive way.

In July of 2004, in pursuit of an opportunity to reach the goal of being a college professor, Dr. Avilés joined the workforce of the University of Texas at San Antonio where she directed of the Early College High School (ECHS), a pioneer program in the state of Texas and of the UTSA P-20 Initiatives Office. The Office of P20 named her the ECHS Champion for her passionate enthusiasm, courageous dedication and commitment to her students.

At IDRA, she is collaboratively strengthening and creating self-renewing public schools that work for all children, valuing and empowering them along with their families and communities. Her focus is building capacity in the area of science education and college readiness fostering quality schools and nurturing sustainable connections that produce effective and productive performance outcomes.

Dr. Avilés has been a graduate college instructor for the College of Education and Human Development; Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has been teaching the following graduate-level courses to teachers working to become school administrators:

  • EDL 7563 “Research in Leadership Laboratory: Change Theory, Innovation, and Application,” which engages doctoral students in inquiry into the research of leadership and organizational change processes in field-based settings leading to the examination of cases involving organizational and leadership change agents;
  • EDU 6223 “Education in a Cultural and Linguistic Diverse Society,” which immerses students in an interdisciplinary overview and deeper understanding of matters related to culture and equity in education from philosophical, historical, political and sociological perspectives;
  • EDL 5303 “Human Relations in Educational Administration,” which prepares students in their supportive role in the supervision of professionals in education to comprehend how positive interpersonal relationships contribute to the process of potentiality, actualization and efficacy development;
  • EDL 5403 “The Principalship: Educational Unit and Site Administration,” which prepares students to assume formal and informal leadership roles in schools; and
  • IDS 2013 “Introduction to Learning and Teaching in a Culturally Diverse Society,” which prepares prospective teachers examining the culture of schooling and classrooms, as well as the complex role of the teachers providing theoretical and practical foundation for understanding topics such as: students as learners, curriculum standards and assessment, effective teaching practices for diverse learners, professionalism, and the socio-political challenges confronting today’s teachers. Additionally, the course includes structured/guided observation and non-teaching tasks in local public PK-12 schools under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Students complete 20 observation hours of field experience and other classroom-related assignments.

Dr. Avilés has received many awards for her dedication, commitment and passion for student success and she has presented her research at many conferences throughout various states.

*formerly named the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program