Role: ELA Teacher
School: KIPP Liberty Academy
What inspired you to become an educator?
As a child, my teachers gave so much to me. I was raised primarily by my mother, who had me when she was a teenager. My dad was incarcerated during part of my childhood. School was always my safe space. It was the place I could soar and be creative.
I will never forget my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Washington. She pushed me—the work was always challenging. She would always get down on my level and make sure I understood whatever was being asked of me. Mrs. Washington brought out the best in us. She pushed me so hard that I did a speech for the mayor in kindergarten! I thought that was just normal at the time—but looking back on it—it was an amazing thing to have accomplished.
Every day she made us say, “I am somebody and there’s nothing that I can’t do.” I literally felt that way as a child. I never felt like there were limits, even at five years old. I’ve always wanted to pass that same feeling onto the next generation as a teacher—and to this day, I have my students recite that phrase.
Tell us about your journey to KIPP Miami.
I started my teaching career in a middle school in North Florida. It wasn’t the right place for me. I was literally a number in the system (106673, I think!). None of my coworkers, or my principal knew anything about me as a person. There was a strong disconnect between what would happen in the classroom and the assumptions of the school’s leadership.
I joined KIPP Atlanta in 2007. Immediately, I knew it would be different. I loved the focus on character education and the feeling of family—the idea that students and teachers should develop a positive relationship that would last even beyond their time in your classroom.
After years of teaching there, taking some time off to raise my young family and helping launch another charter school, I went to the KIPP website to apply for positions through the central office—and discovered they were launching a new region in Miami. With my experience launching another charter school and my time at KIPP Atlanta, I knew this would be a perfect fit.
How has KIPP Miami supported your growth as a teacher—and your desire to coach other teachers?
It’s been a beautiful challenge for me as a founding teacher! The Wheatley curriculum we use is a little different from what we used at KIPP Atlanta, so I’ve learned how to set expectations for students around that curriculum. I truly believe that as an educator you should never stop learning. My school leaders and I communicate all the time about my challenges, goals, and next steps to achieve them.
Currently, I coach a teacher who’s actually also a KIPP alum from California. When we first started working together, he shadowed me and would ask questions. I’m sharing advice with him—and it’s not just about delivering a lesson plan. It’s about the little things that make a big impact, like why I called on that student in a certain moment, or why I addressed a negative behavior with a given consequence. These are the tips and tricks you pick up along the way that helps you build positive, healthy relationships with students. Once you have that, they’ll follow you to Mars. My mentee teacher is open to feedback and asks the right questions. We’ve developed a great relationship.
What kind of growth have you seen in your students from the beginning of this school year?
It’s been incredible. I clearly remember my second day of school, a girl raised her hand after I asked who was willing to read aloud from a book we were starting. She asked, incredulously, “Miss, who’s going to read all this?” It was overwhelming, but they’ve come such a long way—we all laugh about that moment now. Today, we have two millionaires in class — meaning they’ve read over one million words this year.
Now that they’re super invested, we’re doing the nuanced stuff to really understand and dissect what we read. I know my students are engaged when they challenge each other during turn and talks and race to use the whiteboards on their desk to answer the questions I ask. I want to see smiles when I look around the room.
One of the best parts is that I get to watch my own daughter improve in this school as well—the difference with her engagement in ELA from when she started is like night and day!