Our Newest Schools: KIPP Unity Primary and KIPP Academy West

by Sarah Brock on May 21, 2015

When Kaleena Rosenbauer first joined KIPP SHARP in 2008, she quickly learned from her students that impossible is nothing. Kaleena remembers one of her first students – Charles – who was the only student in her class who wouldn’t greet her with a hug. In fact, Charles wouldn’t even say a word. On the 21st day of school, though, Charles walked into Kaleena’s classroom and said, “Ms. Rosenbauer, where’s my hug?”

By the end of elementary school, Charles, who began a grade level behind, participated in the school’s spelling bee and scored at the 71st percentile on the MAP exam. Students like Charles inspired Kaleena to continue to serve KIPPsters by opening KIPP Unity Primary this fall with 126 kindergarteners.

Alongside Kaleena in the same building, Steve Khadam-Hir will open KIPP Academy West, a middle school serving 108 5th-grade students. A Teach For America alumnus, Steve also began his KIPP journey in 2008, but at KIPP 3D on the Northside.  He was quickly acquainted with Cindy, a first generation American who exuded a love for learning.

Cindy was an incredibly hard-working and bright student who wouldn’t hesitate to correct her teacher if he was wrong. When Cindy went home to visit family over Christmas break her 7th grade year, she was unable to cross the border back into the states. KIPP 3D stepped in, and with the help of lawyers was able to get Cindy back to Houston and in school. Her first day back coincided with the state-standardized writing test, which she aced with a perfect score – the only student in the school to achieve the allusive perfect score.

Students like Charles and Cindy inspired Kaleena and Steve to found their new schools this fall, serving Houston’s very diverse Southwest community. The founding class alone for these schools is comprised of students born in 18 different countries.

Because of their own personal experiences, Kaleena and Steve are incredibly passionate about serving this particular community. Kaleena began her teaching journey just two miles from Unity’s building, and she has two younger sisters adopted from Ethiopia. Steve is a first-generation American himself, and together, the two are using their combined experiences to change the lives of their students.

The two schools will be focused on balanced literacy and blended learning, but they are also ensuring their students are educated outside of their academics as well. The pair has developed character strengths to focus on with their students, and they are already planning field trips for their students that align to the academic and character lessons their teachers will teach.

To learn more about KIPP Houston’s newest schools, check out Unity’s and KIPP Academy West’s websites, and stay tuned for an update on this blog coming this fall!