CARMEN LABOY, FOUNDING TEACHER KIPP SHARP AND KIPP CONNECT HOUSTON PRIMARY
1. You’ve been teaching for 32 years. What first brought you into teaching?
Those things I got from my teachers created in me that passion to help other children benefit from someone who cared about them. I love reading; reading for me was being engaged while I was growing up. It took me places and I learned a lot about a lot of things I wouldn’t have learned about. Reading for me is a passion, and I want to transmit it to my students too. By learning the English language, they can take a stand for themselves. They can take on a debate, have an opinion, and be heard in a polite way. (The language) is making things happen for them.
2. What keeps you at KIPP?
It lets me be me and lets me teach the way I want to teach. It’s that flexibility that KIPP gives me. Sometimes I can bring in the best lesson plan and it doesn’t work, so I can take from here and take from there. KIPP doesn’t tell me you have to follow it this way – you do it your best way.
3. You’ve been on two founding staffs (KIPP SHARP and KIPP CONNECT). Describe the experience of being a founding teacher.
Being a founding a teacher is ... wow. It’s a responsibility. A huge one. It’s showing Houston that it can be done; we can work with these children and they can go far and make it. It gives me a great satisfaction knowing I was a part of giving these kids an opportunity in life. My children who are 8th graders or graduating, they call me, and they’ve got offers for great schools because of their scores. I had a little something to do with that.
4. Do you have a favorite KIPP memory?
The first time we took the students to New York, I had a student and he opened his arms and he was hugging the whole city of New York. He’d never seen it before. That stays in my mind still to this day. Without those trips, our students won’t get a chance to do this in a long time. Seeing the joy it brings in their lives … we’ve had kids that don’t really talk or really say a lot and these kids change from one day to the next on the trip. It’s a huge difference.
5. What was it like to see your first group of students graduate high school?
It’s not that you can’t believe it, but it’s hard to imagine. Sometimes I feel tired and want to give up, but no, this is what it’s about and this is what it’s for. It’s surreal. You say it to them (that they will go to college), but when it really happens it’s oh my god, I can’t believe I did this much and my children went this far. It’s a joy you can’t explain.