Pegah Taylor’s journey to join Teach For America and later become the founding School Leader at KIPP CONNECT Middle began before she was even born when her parents moved from Iran to Nashville to earn advanced degrees. But an untimely revolution broke out back home and as their home country erupted into war with Iraq, and her parents found themselves unable to return.
While heading out West looking to settle, her parents came to Houston to visit relatives. They began working in the family’s convenience store, just a few miles from KIPP CONNECT Houston.
“My parents started working there and they realized they could settle down in Houston and make a life,” Pegah said. “They bought a convenience store and I grew up there. I started working behind the cash register maybe at 8 years old. The majority of our students are immigrants and that’s me. I wanted to start a school to help pay it forward.”
The shared history Pegah has with many of her students has helped her make leadership decisions that benefit students, including the choice to bring in parents to assist in translating between Urdu and English at parent meetings.
“One place I see myself or my story within my students is the English language learning,” Pegah said. “English wasn’t my first language; we only spoke Farsi at home. I didn’t start speaking English until I started going to school, so I see that in the steep learning curve with our students.”
While her decision to enter education was heavily influenced by her parents’ decision to settle here, Pegah knew she had to join the education reform movement following an experience in high school where she participated in her high school’s magnet program.
“I remember my friend, she was a junior and I was a sophomore and I told her I was studying for the PSAT,” Pegah said. “I said to her, ‘you’re about to do the SAT,’ and she had no idea what I was talking about. I was like whoa – I walk upstairs for my classes and you walk downstairs, but it’s a world of difference. I kept coming back to the injustice that was happening in my high school. I could name people who didn’t go to college because of the opportunities they didn’t have.”
Helping students who share her background may be Pegah’s passion, but she says it’s the adults on her team that inspire her to continue working at KIPP as a leader.
“Everyone is incredibly devoted and passionate and they don’t settle,” Pegah said. “It’s such a unique set of individuals that do this work, because it’s about the kids and what’s truly possible. The relationships I formed with all the other adults has made this crazy life seem normal because they care about the same things.”