Jessica Rivera, art teacher at KIPP Un Mundo Primary, vividly remembers what it was like when she started primary school. “I was scared at first,” she remembers. “I didn’t speak any English. I was afraid to use my voice.” But then she met her teacher, and her fears evaporated. “My kindergarten teacher was so caring and nurturing, and I just loved her so much. All these years later, I still love her, because she taught me courage and always motivated me.” Rivera feels lucky that she can now take her own experience and pay it forward. “The stars aligned,” she reflects. “Because now, I’m part of a whole team of people who help students, many of whom are also English language learners, learn to use their voice.”
Like Rivera, every teacher at KIPP Un Mundo is encouraged to incorporate their own experiences into the curriculum. This empowerment is apparent everywhere you look. Before coming to KIPP, Rivera led mindfulness workshops for a corporation; now, she weaves many of those lessons about social-emotional skills into her art class. Teacher James Agnew brings his passions in yoga and unicycling to the KIPP Un Mundo community, and has created a play-based model to promote engagement in math and science instruction. “Teachers here are allowed to be themselves,” school leader Lorraine Bernal says, “and that mindset goes for the students as well. It’s so important that students are not only valued, but that they know they are valued. Students deserve to be heard, and at KIPP Un Mundo, they know everybody wants to hear them.”
Bernal draws on her own experience of growing up in poverty in San Antonio to create authentic connections with students. “We want kids to know that anyone can get an education, anyone can make it. I went to college because I hoped it would change my life,” Bernal says, “and it did. I truly believe that no matter what you’re up against, no matter your size or your history, if you have the right tools, you can achieve anything.”
At KIPP Un Mundo Primary, students are prepared for success with a rigorous, meaningful, and culturally relevant curriculum. The academic program is designed to maximize learning time, honor multiple learning styles, and promote academic achievement. All students attend a Spanish class daily, and in guided reading and other core content areas, KIPP Un Mundo teachers aim to have students above grade level by the end of every school year.
Core content isn’t the sole focus at KIPP Un Mundo Primary, however. The arts are crucial to student development, and Un Mundo is intentional about creating spaces for students to explore their passions and interests. Students take classes in dance, choir, art, and PE, and also have the opportunity to participate in basketball, volleyball, and soccer.
When asked to sum up what she loved about KIPP Un Mundo Primary, Rivera took a moment to collect her thoughts. “That’s a tough one, but I’ll answer it this way. At the start of every class, my students do a chant where they say ‘I am an artist. Yo soy una artista.’ And it’s true. They are and can be artists – we believe that all of our students can be whatever they want to be. At this school, we don’t focus on barriers. We focus on love and understanding.”
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