What are some of the key joys and challenges of being a kindergarten teacher?
Doreen Kinley: One of the joys of being a kindergarten teacher is seeing how far my students can progress academically during the year. Watching the lightbulbs turn on when they begin to write their names, then seeing that progress continue through the end of the year when they are successfully adding and subtracting, is an incredible experience. However, because my students begin the year at varying skill levels, it is difficult to cater to individual students’ needs while simultaneously meeting the needs of the whole class.
Perri Lawrie: I believe the kindergarten experience is as much about learning to interact in a social atmosphere as it is about academic progress. I am as proud of my students’ social development as I am of their academic accomplishments; these shared expectations develop a group of kind children who know how to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, ask each other for help, offer advice, and take care of each other.
Tell us about any special projects or initiatives you are most proud of this year.
Doreen Kinley: I am most proud of having successfully implemented a new curriculum for our kindergartners this year. The idea was to discontinue the core words planning we were doing and implement a new system. I took on the challenge and am happy to say that it has significantly increased the number of core words our students are reading.
Perri Lawrie: Over the past few years, I have incorporated American Sign Language (ASL) into my classroom. Families, other KIPP NYC teachers, and students have all expressed interest in learning to use ASL in their classrooms and homes. I’ve recently had the pleasure of sharing my love of American Sign Language with the entire KIPP NYC community through several workshops. I’m proud to have been a part of introducing such a beautiful language and culture to my school community.
Over the course of your career, what do you consider some of your greatest accomplishments to date?
Doreen Kinley: The most significant accomplishment would have to be the successful completion of my tenure with Teach For America in Las Vegas. I taught pre-kindergarten for two years, which was an experience that gave me a true understanding of the importance and difficulty of educating young children. The kids I taught lived in a very low-income area, and I realized that many didn’t have the stability and consistency at home that they experienced in my classroom. I realized that I was not only setting the stage for their academic careers, but also providing them with daily routines and a safe haven that let them know that they were cherished and loved and that they could look forward to a bright future. It was this experience that inspired me to continue teaching in a low-income community and that set the stage for the rest of my career.
Perri Lawrie: I am incredibly honored to have been a part of the founding team of KIPP Infinity Elementary School—the free, open enrollment public charter school in Harlem where I currently teach. I am confident that strong teachers and great schools can create lifelong learners who understand that they control their futures. I feel that I am a part of a school that champions that spirit. Founding a school is no small project, and it has been an incredible (and exhausting!) experience.
What drives you and keeps you motivated to continue your hard work as a teacher on a daily basis?
Doreen Kinley: Each day, I am driven by a fervent desire to see my students meet their academic goals and feel a sense of pride in their individual accomplishments. I loved school when I was a young child, and I want each of my students to experience that feeling when they walk into a classroom.
Perri Lawrie: I am surrounded by a group of highly motivated, dynamic teachers—specifically my co-teacher Doreen Kinley—who push me to be a better version of myself and provide a forum that welcomes my creativity and passion. I am intensely proud of the work that I do and am completely committed to it. I come to work each day because I know I am laying the foundation for a K-12 experience for my students and am an integral part of the work that will help them get to and through college.
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