As the son of working class immigrants, I was always told that education was the great equalizer. A strong education would provide one with an opportunity to a life of choice and freedom. While this playbook may have worked out for some individuals, it did not work for everyone due to various systemic and structural barriers, a fact that deeply troubled me. When I first started my teaching career at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate in 2015, I worked hard to ensure that I was creating strong curricular material for each and every student to access. Each lesson plan was well differentiated and I often referenced engaging phenomena from real-world scenarios. However, the reality was that the traditional teaching model that I was so familiar with did not always work for everyone. Some students loved my class and others did not find the material engaging, which was painful for a new teacher to experience. I knew there had to be better ways to get everyone on board so I began experimenting with my teaching practice by providing students more voice and agency in the classroom. It started with a simple move such as allowing students to choose the way they wanted to study for exams. For larger activities/projects, students were given flexibility on what project they wanted to complete and they could propose a myriad of methods on how they wanted to tackle their projects. This move towards greater student empowerment proved to be transformational because not only were my students more engaged but they thrived and exceeded expectations! The projects that our students were producing won accolades from industry professionals and were featured in a number of engineering/science competitions, some which secured our school tens of thousands of dollars of funding to further improve our STEM programming! When the end of last school year came around, I was absolutely honored and humbled to be named a recipient of the 2021 Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award, a moment that brought an incredible amount of joy and highlighted all the spectacular work that we have been able to accomplish. I am constantly reminded by the fact that our students do have the creativity, the skills, the knowledge, the wisdom and the passion to achieve greatness because I see it every single day. It is our job as educators to provide them with the tools and support to be successful and it has been an absolute privilege to be able to facilitate that learning each and every day. It is not my classroom. It is our classroom.
#KIPP #KIPPMA #KALC #Educator #TeacherLeader #STEM #AAPIEducator #OurClassroomClose Bio
KALC Science and Engineering Teacher and Instructional CoachRead Bio
I’m a child of educators. Actually, I’m not just a child, but also a grandchild, a nephew, a friend, and a brother of educators. I have seen and experienced a wide range of schools on my journey through education – from an international school in Hong Kong, to a small lutheran middle school, an elite public high school to a Big Ten university, I’ve had access to some of the best education in the world. No matter which school I went to, I can think of someone who believed in me and pushed me to be a better student or a better person – their names etched into my memory – Mills, Frimoth, Needham, Smith, Guith, Wuggie. All people who saw something in me that I didn’t always see in myself.
When I started down my own path in a career in education, I knew I wanted to emulate them, to “make a difference” in the life of a child. During that time, I was volunteering at a church youth group, and when the leader resigned the church asked me to take over. I was woefully unprepared for the work, but once again, I found a support system quickly that believed in and supported me. I ran the group for 5 years and in that time I really began to learn what it meant to believe in others, the way I had always experienced. I started to understand what it meant to see what was possible in a child, and to nurture that possibility with love and understanding. During that time I was able to build a team of young adults that met with and mentored our group of high school students, many of whom still run that group to this day. Their names too remain with me – Gia, Laura, Sean, Kristen – people who just needed opportunity and a push from someone who believed in them.
My life took a turn when I moved to Boston, and I found myself out of my depth teaching 5th grade science at KAB. I was bad. I knew I was bad. I’m pretty sure the kids knew I was bad. But even at 30 years old, I found myself showered with support and love – my teachers’ names similarly etched in my mind – Smith, Ricciardi, Meisner, Barnes. However, in my own self interest and desire to be better, I had forgotten what it meant to believe in the best in kids. I had lost the ability to see them because I was overwhelmed by my own limitations. One particular day, during a terrible lesson where I had lost the class, I told my co-teacher at the time “I can’t teach them. I don’t even know what they can do.” She looked me dead in the eye and told me, “They can do anything. It’s your job to show them how.”
It is a flash point for me, the “aha” moment when the fire was rekindled – when I began to remember what it meant to see kids not for what they were doing or had done before, but for what they could do and who they could be. It was not a change in effort, but a change in attitude: to see and believe in the possibility of every child, and open the door of opportunity through the transformative power of radical love, empathy, empowerment and understanding. It is not a destination, but a process.Close Bio
7th Grade Math at KABRead Bio
I come to my role as an educator as the daughter of two public-school teachers and as a child who loved school. By the latter, I mean I always felt celebrated by my schools, a feeling that was shaped by many privileges. In fourth grade, my parents were able to send me to private school, which catered to a mostly white, wealthy student body. While I sometimes felt uncomfortable as a student on financial aid, I easily acclimated and grew to love it there very quickly. That first year at my new school, I remember thinking of my teacher as truly magical. I still have the tattered copy of The Westing Game she gave me that year, and this gesture, though small, helped solidify my belief in myself as a strong reader and creative writer; she had picked out that challenging, exciting book just for me. When I decided to become an ELA teacher, I knew I wanted to recreate those moments for my students. As someone who had felt so loved by my teachers, I figured that with my love for my students, I would easily be able to do just that.
I saw in my first year teaching, however, that love cannot exist just as a feeling — it must become an action. I struggled to create a positive classroom culture that year and fell short of the vision I had for myself as a teacher. I looked at my students’ experience and could only see how different it was from the positive experience I had had as a student. By not fostering that loving environment, I was contributing to the educational inequity I had aimed to fight against. That year taught me that creating such an environment requires intentionality, sustained practice, regular reflection, and – perhaps most importantly – a strong team. Though I was the clear “weak link” of our team, my colleagues treated me with grace and generosity and modeled a commitment to collaboration and rigorous teaching. Their support for me as a struggling new teacher was a sign of their true love for our students, because they knew that every classroom space needed to be one in which students were safe, supported, and affirmed. This mindset – that every classroom matters, that our students deserve a compassionate and collaborative team of adults – is what has pushed me towards leadership since that first year.
And since that first year, I have seen love show up in our school in countless actions and practices, moves that I had not perceived as a student. As a school, we act with love when we alter our culture systems so that students are treated as the brilliant learners and self-advocates they are. We act with love when we collaborate as colleagues and create a space that feels joyful and inspiring for adults as well as children. As an ELA team, we act with love when we include texts that reflect our students’ identities and writing tasks that allow students to share their unique voice. For me, acting with love looks like critically reflecting on my time as a student and my practice as an educator to ensure I am empowering my students rather than recreating an educational experience that worked for me.
My fifth grade students recently created a list of ways they have felt in their favorite classrooms: “welcome, joyful, peaceful, calm, happy, confident, proud, safe, at home, cared for, loved.” We used this list as a basis of how we want our classroom community to feel this year, but I also feel these words serve as the focus of my work each and every year. Every classroom our students experience must be one in which those feelings are deliberately fostered, and it is my role as a teacher and leader to ensure this is the case. Loving school – and feeling loved by your school – is a right, not a privilege.Close Bio
5th Grade ELA Teacher at KALRead Bio
Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. The reasons why certainly evolved over the years, but the end goal remained the same. As a student, I loved school. I enjoyed learning new things and being encouraged to question the world around me. I was lucky to have a number of teachers who made me feel safe to be me. I felt free to express myself, whether that meant nerding out and bringing energy to the topic at hand or admitting that I was having a difficult time and struggling to focus on the content. I did not have to show up in any one way to be celebrated; I was seen as a complete human being with all the complexities that go along with that. Having this level of safety in these classes allowed me to grow not just as a student, but as a person.
As teachers, we get the incredible opportunity to be a part of the lives of hundreds and thousands of kids. We are with them for just a small part of their life-long journeys, but it’s an integral part. How can I be sure I maximize the learning that happens – not just for school, but for life? It’s a funny thing to have a goal of making yourself obsolete, but that is what I strive to do in my classroom. If I do my job well, then kids will see themselves as the leaders of our classroom. They will be the ones driving the discussions and helping one another make connections that unlock more knowledge. They will be the ones who feel free to express themselves, nerd out on content, and share their struggles. They will be the ones celebrating one another for being the complex people they are. If I do my job well, then all kids will share the sentiments of Franklin* and Jasmine* when they came back to KAB a few years after graduating and said, “I just know this is where I come from.” and “You don’t need an invite to come home.”Close Bio
8th Grade ELA Teacher at KABRead Bio
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.Close Bio
Assistant Principal at KIPP Academy LynnRead Bio
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