Earning a Master's, Gaining a Mentor

by Chris Gonzalez on Oct 01, 2015

in Alumni, Team & Family

After eight years as a little KIPPster and through her education at Prairie View A&M and Relay Graduate School of Education, Joana has transformed from bashful 5th grader to confident lead teacher “Ms. Gomez.” Yet Joana is also still Joana—a hardworking KIPPster with a cheery smile and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Sam Lopez, her principal in 2001, has always called her “My Joana” and remembers her bashful way. Although she was often cautious in middle school, he recognized how hard she worked and her strength.

Having entered KIPP Academy as a 5th grader and graduating in KHHS’s second class, Joana has been a KIPPster for more than half of her life. She is KIPP. She believes in what KIPP does in the lives of others because KIPP had that impact on her.

Joana explains why she came back to KIPP, “My experience as a student was awesome and we were always there for each other with all the love. I wanted to give back to that. I never thought I would be teaching, but now I love it. I want to build that KIPP for my students. My whole life is KIPP--my family and my friends. I just celebrated my baby shower last weekend and my best friends from KIPP all came.”

Many of Joana’s former teachers are now her co-workers. Denise Swisher knew Joana more than a decade ago and was honored to be her Fellow Advisor in the Graduate Teaching Fellowship last year.

“Joana was a co-teacher in our classroom. She had unwavering expectations of herself and the kiddos,” Denise says.

Denise goes on to share with pride that Joana listened, planned, practiced, taught, dissected what worked and what didn’t, and transformed her instructional practices. Joanna never stopped pushing herself and her kids. Although she was in a 7th-grade math class, she jumped into teaching at KIPP Academy with both feet—tutoring after school and even teaching kids to read during lunch. When Denise talks about Joana, you can tell it is with genuine appreciation and respect. 

Now in her second year of the Graduate Teaching Fellowship, Joana teaches 5th-grade science in her former middle school—KIPP Academy. She feels that Denise and the Fellowship had a tremendous effect on her as a teacher.

“I chose teaching because I loved tutoring. I didn’t know I would love it so much, but the relationship that I was able to form with Swisher, coupled with the classwork from the Fellowship, served as a gradual on-ramp to teaching and provided me with the skills and experiences I needed to succeed as a KIPP teacher,” Joana notes.

And according to Denise, Joana is doing just that—succeeding in the classroom as a little KIPPster who grew up to stand before the classes that she once sat in.

Joana (Cisneros) Gomez is KIPP. Joana is the change we wish to see in the world.

To learn more about our Graduate Teaching Fellowship, click here.