Story

December 22, 2020

Three KIPP Texas teachers receive $10,000 each for prestigious teaching award

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai, female education activist and Nobel Prize laureate 

The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and teachers play a vital role in preparing children for their future. It’s a job that requires patience, understanding and a lifetime of dedication. KIPP Texas is proud to commend three exceptional educators who have been recognized for their commitment to student learning.

Carlos Benito, a fifth grade science teacher at KIPP Connect Middle School, Keturah Campbell, a teacher at KIPP Dream Prep Primary and Janae Reynolds, the highest performing reading teacher at KIPP Legacy Preparatory School in Houston are among 10 educators nationwide to win this year’s Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award. They will each receive $10,000 in recognition of their exemplary work in the classroom.  

“These educators embody excellence and devotion in and outside the classroom,” said Sehba Ali, KIPP Texas Public Schools CEO. “They are not only incredible teachers who inspire students daily to learn, they also advocate passionately for students at every turn.”  

Carlos Benito has an unwavering belief in his student’s ability to fall in love with science as he has. For the last five years, his classroom serves as the prototype for the student investment and engagement necessary for success.

Benito is the son of immigrants. As the oldest child in his family, took on the huge responsibility of helping raise his three siblings while his parents worked. When he was 16 years old, he began to find science related jobs to build on his passion and support his family, which ultimately led him to KIPP Connect years later. His love of teaching has led his students to success, with 81% of students scoring in the 75th percentile of the Measure of Academic Progress test in 2018-2019, a 9% increase from the previous year and highest score in all KIPP Texas schools.

“Carlos is the teacher who gets the most hallway hugs during dismissal, the teacher whose students willingly stay late because they are eager to learn more, and the teacher still being quoted by his previous students when describing life lessons or how they remember the difference between mechanical and electrical energy,” said Charlynn Bowers, KIPP Connect school leader.  Click here to see why students, parents and teachers believe Carlos Benito is so deserving of this honor. 

As the grade level chair Keturah Campbell believes in the power of creating social justice warriors that will dismantle oppressive systems for communities of color.  After more than 13 years at KIPP, everybody knows her motto: “You can be somebody. You can be anybody. You first have to believe in yourself.” 

Campbell helped co-found the Girls Rising Club at KIPP Shine and brought it to KIPP Dream Prep. Having grown up in a single parent household, she knows about the importance of building up girls of color to be leaders and empowering them to navigate systems of inequity. Under her leadership, the Girls Rising Club held a food drive where they collected more than 2,500 non-perishable food items for the Houston Food Bank. 

“Keturah has a toolbox of best teaching strategies to support all students, English Language Learners, students who struggle with behavior, students with Speech Individualized Education Plans, and advanced students. She meets them where they are and then pushes them further,” said Haley Simonton Bonilla, school leader at KIPP Dream Prep. Click here to see why students, parents and teachers believe Keturah Campbell is so deserving of this honor. 

Janae Reynolds is one of the highest performing reading teachers at KIPP Legacy Preparatory School. She recognizes students’ growth just as much as she recognizes their needs, so even  students with the most challenging circumstances develop in positive and often unprecedented ways. On State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness testing, Reynolds continues to have the highest rate of students across performance bands of approaching, meet grade level and master grade level. An amazing accomplishment with students who struggled the most in second grade reading. 

Reynolds has been able to replicate her teaching success by coaching graduate students before their first year of teaching. Her legacy is not just in the classroom, but she is an integral part of school events and students’ lives.

“Janae knows each student as if they were her own kin, and communicates with every single parent personally and constantly, so that she sees students as an extension of their family,” said Tammy Butler school leader at KIPP Legacy Preparatory School. “She is a powerhouse that allows her students to shine. To watch the magic that Janae performs in her room socially and academically is a gift.”  Click here to see why students, parents and teachers believe Janae Reynolds is so deserving of this honor. 

The Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award is given annually to a select group of K-12 teachers from KIPP schools around the country. Teachers are selected based on their track record of improving student achievement, their leadership in the classroom and throughout their school, and their commitment to equipping underserved students with the skills needed to be successful in getting to and through college.

The Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award honors the legacy of Harriett Ball, a visionary educator and mentor teacher. A 35-year teaching veteran of Houston and Austin public schools, Ball incorporated chants, songs, and movement to get her students engaged and learning in the classroom. In late 1992, Ball began mentoring Teach for America corps member Dave Levin in Houston. Inspired by her methods, Levin co-founded the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in 1994; KIPP has since grown into a national network of schools with more than 100,000 students from educationally underrepresented backgrounds.

About KIPP Texas

KIPP Texas Public Schools is an open-enrollment, public, tuition-free charter school network of 59 schools with more than 31,000 pre-K-12 students across the state. Together with our families and communities, we create joyful, academically excellent schools that prepare our students to pursue any path they choose — college, career, and beyond — so they can lead fulfilling lives and build a more just world.