By Elena Larranga, Special Education Teacher, KIPP New Jersey
I’m a six-year veteran teacher who is one week away from my first day teaching second grade Special Education at KIPP New Jersey. I just returned from my first KIPP School Summit (KSS) – the annual professional development gathering of the KIPP Team and Family. This wasn’t just any KSS—it was the KSS that marked KIPP’s 20th anniversary—that’s a big milestone.
Given that milestone, I suspected this might be a conference that exceeded my expectations… and it sure did. It was not only inspiring, but it helped me feel more supported and prepared as an educator. At KSS there was such an intentional commitment to creating a positive educational culture. I felt celebrated and respected as a professional while also being constantly reminded of our main goal, to educate and support our scholars.
As a result of KSS, I’m inspired by the many alumni who shared stories about the influence KIPP schools have had on their lives. I’m motivated by the fact that I can literally and directly impact hundreds, maybe even thousands of young people. I’m reminded that my goal is not just to prepare my students for the upcoming year, but to prepare them for a happy, healthy life. And I’m reminded that teaching is more than just a job, it is my passion.
I loved the celebrations at KSS but it was the courses that made KSS such a useful experience for me. As a Special Education teacher with KIPP, I will not only get to work in the neighborhoods’ with the highest need for quality education, I will also get to teach the children in my school who need the most support. I have been so impressed by the use of data to identify and serve our children with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) as well as students without IEPs who still need extra help in order to access grade-level content. During my courses at KSS, I was taught to look at my data in a deeper way than I had before. I began seeing grade-level expectations and pulling out the targeted remedial skills needed. With these new skills and resources, I’ll be able to widen my personal scope of impact.
As a society, I believe we have a responsibility to provide our children everything they need to be successful in life. That’s why I became a teacher. I grew up in a rural community in New Mexico, a state that often ranks in the bottom five when it comes to education. I could have easily become a statistic. I could have been one of the many children who struggle once they get to college and lack the grit to work through the many learning gaps left behind by an inadequate education. But I worked hard, persevered, and here I am.
Looking forward to my first day of teaching at KIPP, I am filled with optimism, hope and gratitude. I’m also filled with excitement to work for an organization that shares my vision for education and will support me in seeing that vision come to life in my own classroom.
Learn more about KIPP School Summit 2014 >