During his senior year of college, Spencer Russell decided to do Teach for America because it was convenient at the time. Although he wasn’t sure about his future, it only took one semester for Spencer to realize he had found his calling, “After visiting my students’ homes and having dinner with their families, I knew teaching was something I really wanted to do long term and that’s why I am still here, four years later at KIPP Legacy.”
Spencer teaches first grade, but you would never know that listening to his classroom discussions.
“I don’t treat my students like they are little,” Spencer said. “They are people who have a lot to learn. My expectations make my classroom different.”
These first-grade KIPPsters learn about tough things. They learn about current events and the election. Whenever the Supreme Court has a vote to make, they learn about both sides in the classroom and take a class vote and compare it to how the Supreme Court voted.
During the school’s October costume parade, each class chose a theme to dress up as. There were crayons and puppy dogs and Dr. Seuss themes. And then Spencer’s class walked through. Each KIPPster was dressed up as a presidential candidate, shook hands with all of the parade attendees, and handed out “Vote 4 Me” handmade items. These first graders were already learning the importance of a good handshake and eye contact.
Spencer takes incredible ownership of his classroom, knowing he has to be the constant, not the variable for his students. He chooses KIPP year after year because closing the achievement gap is a team effort.
“The kids are the most important thing – in my classroom, in the school, in KIPP.”