January 18, 2022

KIPP MA Emerging Leaders: Celeste Mendoza

What are Emerging Leaders?

In Emerging Leaders, we believe that leadership is a mindset, not a title. Leadership, like a muscle, can be strategically built and developed over time. Emerging Leaders is a year-long professional development cohort designed for KIPP MA teacher leaders seeking to strengthen their ability to lead strategically, authentically, and equitably. Emerging Leaders meet on a monthly basis to build a shared understanding of foundational leadership principles and contextualize these principles within participant’s roles at their respective schools. Through participation in Emerging Leaders, participants: 

  • Strengthen connections with other emerging leaders throughout the organization

  • Strengthen knowledge and skills in leadership domains that are key to being a successful teacher leader and/or school-level leader

  • Deepen self-awareness through a targeted coaching cycle, feedback analysis, and action planning.

-Farida Graham, Managing Director, Teacher & Leader Development

KIPP Academy Lynn Assistant Principal, Celeste Mendoza, reflects on her path that brought her to KIPP.

“Because of my parents, I’ve always loved learning. My dad instilled in me a deep curiosity of the world, and my mom always pushed me to use what I learned to try to make my community better. They poured their hearts into making sure my sisters and I believed in ourselves and each other, insisting that at their core that everyone is powerful.

I relied on this sentiment to get me through college, where my classrooms, which skewed predominantly white and wealthy, were often intimidating and sometimes even discouraging. But their faith in me carried me through, and at my Harvard Latinx graduation we all cried, a lot. My parents were proud of me for being the first person in my town to go to Harvard, meanwhile I was reflecting on everything they did to get me to this moment. My mom didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, and my dad grew up working in the fields of Central California.  But the trajectory of his life—and as a result our family’s life—changed forever when his counselor registered him for the SAT on the last possible day, and he was therefore able to enroll in a local state university. For many people in my largely Mexican hometown, however, low expectations and a life without access to college are the norm.

My upbringing in this small town shaped my deep commitment to community building and investing in people.  As an educator, I can honor my family’s history by working every day to believe in and uplift students like my dad and my childhood peers.  Because I understand what it feels like to be an outsider in a school system not built for me, I aim for my work here at KIPP to center around inclusivity and belonging. As a math teacher I worked to create a classroom space that represented our students’ identities and empowered student voices. Together in partnership with students, we created a culture where anyone could love math and anyone could be good at it.

Now as an assistant principal, I am working to leverage our team’s brilliance to ensure classrooms across our campus and region are excellent, inclusive, and equitable.  I want to build agency and capacity within our staff and our students by creating collaborative spaces where we believe everyone has something meaningful to contribute and everyone can learn from one another. This spirit of continuous learning means that every day we show up ready to make growth in service of our students, and every day our students, teachers, and leaders are ready to expand our vision of excellence and grow in our collective power. “

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