“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” -Rita Pierson
Relationships matter at KIPP because KIPPsters matter at KIPP. When catching up with older KIPP alums, three names are heard most often when they talk about (surrogate) uncles and moms: Sam Lopez, Isaiah Spann, and Jenn Dewhirst.
Spann, in his 17th year at KIPP, has served many roles including teacher, coach, and now in KIPP Through College.
“Promises to students are sacred,” Spann shared. “Relationships are important. My style is consistency. I do not make promises I cannot keep.”
Spann builds relationships with students by creating trust based on consistency and keeping promises. He also expects the same from his students, encouraging and teaching follow-through. His advice for building strong relationships is simple—go outside of the walls of KIPP and be at baby showers, weddings, birthday parties, show that support for students outside of the classroom.
“I never wanted to be that teacher that students felt weird seeing outside of the classroom,” Spann said.
“I wanted there to be more common ground than KIPP,” Spann explains. “That’s why I go to Christmas parties, funerals, even babysit.”
Spann and KIPP grew together. In the same way, he’s growing with his students. He started with KIPP in 1997. Here’s a cool pic of Spann from back in the day. He hasn’t changed a bit.
“There were times when I was a teacher that someone would ask a student who I was and I would say ‘Just tell them I’m your uncle. That’s easier.’ And the students would say ‘But wait, you’re black?’ and I would say ‘That doesn’t matter.’ Because it doesn’t. These students are my family,” said Spann.