March 29, 2023

Women’s History Month Staff Feature: Janel Alvarez

Janel Alvarez knew at an early age that she wanted to do something that was meaningful. 

“I just wanted to do right by people,” she says, and always grew up as a strong believer in questioning the status quo and leading with curiosity. 

An 8 year KIPP veteran (her time having been at KIPP New Jersey as well as KIPP Massachusetts), Janel now is in the role of a Recruitment and Retention Manager and oversees Teaching Fellow hires and retention. Janel started at KIPP New Jersey as a Teaching Fellow herself and went on to work in many capacities as a teacher, most recently as the History Department Chair and 9th Grade World History teacher at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate. 

Growing up, Janel knew that life would be different for her than it would be for her brothers. As a First Generation College graduate, education was always a big topic in her household and her family motivated her to finish college and even go for multiple degrees. In her years going through school, she reflects that she never had a female presenting history teacher.

“So history was always through the white male perspective,” she says. If her experience taught her anything, it was how important it was to be authentic and share your story and identity and not feel sorry or shameful, especially in the classroom. 

“When I came out to my first advisory group, and felt the acceptance, that’s when things changed for me dramatically. I had been dealing with shame in identifying as Queer, and when I started sharing that in my lessons. I didn’t realize how much that would do for kids. “

That experience began to show Janel just how much her authenticity would do for students in her classroom in the Queer community, and especially BIPOC young women. 

After transitioning out of the classroom (and also stating her year spent teaching at KALC was probably the best one yet), Janel began reflecting on how she could continue the work with KIPP MA because she wanted to remain part of the KIPP network and support the direction that KIPP Massachusetts is headed. As a Recruitment and Retention Manager, Janel says she feels calmed and that the work is meaningful, especially as she reflects on the recruiter who became a mentor to her during her own Fellowship year. 

And as Janel thinks of other women who are making a change, she says, “I can’t name just one female presenting historian! But when I think of who grounds me, it starts with our Trans Women of Color, then folks like AOC and our young female activists.”

Janel says she is also inspired by the younger generation, “It’s so easy for teenagers and younger to feel like ‘what can I do I can’t vote’, and I think it’s so great to see so many young artists and politicians speak up and not cater to the status quo.”

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