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Mahri Aste
Mosaic Elementary School
Fairfax, VA

Mahri Aste, Mosaic Elementary School, Fairfax, VirginiaDr. Mahri Aste is principal of Mosaic Elementary School which is one of the most diverse schools in the country, as students come from 40 countries speaking 28 different languages. The school’s goal is to ensure students feel emotionally, mentally, and physically safe. Everyday Mosaic staff convey the message, we see you, we welcome you, and you belong. Principal Aste has hired a staff who are diverse in terms of gender, race, age, experience, religion, and ethnic backgrounds. Students need to see role models and learn from people that look like and represent them. The staff is enriched by these differing viewpoints, voices, backgrounds, and cultures. Principal Aste focuses explicitly on how to communicate across cultures and develop school-wide strategies that are culturally responsive. She is intentional about using these strategies and encourages teachers to tackle hard conversations.

Principal Aste’s core values as a leader revolve around high expectations, a caring culture, and excellence for all. She always focuses on the positive to ensure that Mosaic becomes a place for joy. She practices servant leadership by listening with empathy, acknowledging fears, proactively preparing for challenges ahead, and frequently communicating with staff. She values creativity and innovation and cultivates that spirit in Mosaic staff. She cultivates a positive school community through modeling high expectations, building collaborative trust within the school community, and developing and sustaining a safe, positive, and highly efficient school climate.

Principal Aste is an administrator who values teachers’ unique experiences, strengths, and knowledge. She gives teachers the flexibility to use those tools to best serve their students and the freedom to explore what works for different students at different times. She values risk taking by teachers and students, understanding that there is not one right way to do anything. By surrounding herself with intelligent, creative, enthusiastic people, Principal Aste believes they can raise each other up to achieve greatly.

Principal Aste implemented a popular International (Family Heritage) Night, where families share their heritage through food, dress, dance, and stories. She and the Equity team facilitated small group discussions with families. She also hosted a diverse panel of parents who shared how they navigate the public school system and created a space for small group discussions. Her leadership actions in these areas illustrate her caring disposition where she embraces all families within the school community, their perspectives, and the ideas they have and can share with one another.

Principal Aste is known for her ability to teach and guide successful principals-in-training. Many assistant principals have learned from Dr. Aste’s mentorship and then moved on to be leaders at other schools.

The most evident example of how Principal Aste’s leadership has impacted the school can be seen in the achievement of Mosaic students. In the last three years, Mosaic has made significant strides in closing the achievement gaps. The test scores in both Reading and Math for Black and Hispanic groups of students are the same or slightly below their other student populations. Mosaic has also made strides in closing achievement gaps for English Language Learners and students who qualify for free/reduced-price meals. This achievement is a result of a culture of high expectations, knowing every child by name and by need, and providing support in an equitable way to the students who need it most. It’s also been a result of her relentless efforts to provide the highest quality instruction for EVERY child.

For her entire thirty-two year career as a teacher and leader, Dr. Mahri Aste has advocated for children who lack advocacy, access, and opportunity. She is proud of how Mosaic Elementary School has created an equitable global learning community of joy and excellence for all students.