As a KIPP Houston High School geometry teacher, Kelly Pfister’s math jokes are almost goofy enough to be funny, and she has plenty of them. She comfortably navigates her classroom, pausing to coach a student who needs a little nudge while still fully directing the student that is teaching her classmates at the board. She anticipates her students’ needs, while patiently letting students work through the challenges. She has a natural ability to be in two places at once—which might just be a geometry trick.
For the past four years, Kelly has had a profound impact on the students and KHHS. As a geometry teacher, grade level chair and teacher coach, her reach has gone far beyond the hundred students she teaches each year.
Kelly was recently selected to receive the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award, which awards outstanding teachers $20,000 each.
Kelly embodies KHHS’s core values of strength, hunger, and rigor. She is often the first to arrive at school and the last to leave. She pushes herself to be the best for her students, and she is relentless when it comes to driving results regardless of a student’s ability or work ethic. You can often find Kelly tracking down students for tutorials, calling home when they aren’t meeting expectations, staying late for extra tutoring, and putting the finishing touches on lesson preparation so everything is executed seamlessly the following day. It does not matter if you are a top student or completely lacking motivation, she never gives up on you. In fact, she truly believes she can reach all students and will not stop until she figures out how.
Kelly tells others how she wanted to be a teacher as a child and designed lessons before reaching middle school.
“She was the best second year teacher I have ever observed and now in her fifth year of teaching, she is truly exemplary,” said Lara Wheatley, school leader of KHHS. “Her results speak for themselves.”
Kelly outperforms other teachers in our region year after year in passing scores and advanced scores on every common assessment. These results are a product of meticulous planning, using data daily to check for understanding, proactively addressing misconceptions, and deliberately differentiating for all students. She pulls students into small groups for tutorials if they are not grasping the material. She regularly changes her seating and classroom set up in order to maximize student outcomes. She creates a classroom environment where students must work hard and take risks. One of her greatest instructional strengths is questioning. She is incredibly intentional with her questioning, even scripting out scaffolded questions daily.
At KHHS, teachers are formally observed three times per year using an internally created KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching observation rubric. Kelly is amongst the highest scoring teachers, scoring 15 percentage points higher than the average.
Her relentless focus on planning and intentionality on data sustain her results on the End of Course exams. The last year the geometry EOC was taken, her students outperformed the region and the state of Texas.
Even more importantly, she has been intentionally embedding ACT questions into her curriculum so students get exposure in 9th and 10th grade. Her focus on the ACT has paid off. The class of 2015 had its highest sub scores in the two geometry strands.
Impact Beyond the Classroom
For the past three years, Kelly has organized the sophomore trip, a five-day road trip to visit colleges, build the team, and reward hard work. Organizing this trip is no small feat. She is in charge of fundraising over $20,000, coordinating logistics, and chaperoning the trip. She has also been a role model in the lives of sixteen young ladies. As a freshman advisor four years ago, Kelly would push her girls to represent our school’s values as positive female leaders. Throughout the four years, she modeled what it looks like to be warm and demanding with her students and her advisees. Last May, these young women graduated and each has benefited from her advice, her encouragement, and consistent support when they would fall.
Kelly is an integral part of student success at KHHS for the past four years and will continue to be for years to come.
To read more about our other Kinder Excellence in Teaching winners, click on the links below.