By Fabiene Boone
’s 2014 in Harlem and where my New York story begins. I was one of sixteen founders to open up KIPP STAR Harlem. Not only did we start a school, but we created impact within the neighborhood. Since then, our teachers, leadership, and families have worked diligently to build a school that is warm and welcoming to all who want to learn.
Two years earlier, I had visited New York City on business. I knew then that I wanted to settle here. I claimed that within the next two years I would be living and working in New York. I remember walking along Seventh Avenue and seeing so much diversity just within that small radius. Then, I continued to walk for about six or seven hours, observing the greatest city in the world!
A NEW LIFE
Fast forward a year and a half, my best friend and I are in a U-Haul from Indiana on our way to move into my apartment in Harlem. I was starting a new life and career in education to become one of sixteen founders for KIPP STAR Harlem College Preparatory. KIPP is exceptional: Students strive for success in whatever life path they choose. Most of all, they complete college at a rate far above the national average for all students and four times higher than that of students from similar economic backgrounds.
Approaching this new change, I did not know what to expect. In fact, I will never forget when one day my School Leader came to observe me during our Guided Reading block and curiously asked me what I was doing. I sat there like a puppy who chewed her favorite pair of high heels. My only response was “I don’t know.”
CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS
I took that moment to use as fuel to mold myself into a teacher. First thing I had to do was focus on my strengths, bring them to the forefront. I knew that I had a special connection with kids. If you place me in a room full of kids that I have never met, I can connect with them all in some way, form, or fashion. So, I used that as a starting point to build my confidence performing in front of my students. I would eat breakfast with the students. I would run with them at recess (I destroyed a lot of shoes doing so). I would simply ask them what do they want from me.
Once I earned the confidence of my students, the next step was to gain the trust of their parents and extended family members. This is important, especially within the black community. It takes a team to mold a single child into something amazing. I knew that it was essential that everyone be on one accord as we solidify a child’s educational foundation. I did so by making an effort for families to see and get to know me outside of the classroom. I attended every birthday party, baby shower, special dinner, dance recital, etc. Whenever a parent invited me to an event, I would attend.
BEING CREATIVE IN LIFE
Growing up in a 24-hour daycare, that experience really established within me the importance to connect with every child. Living in a daycare, you come across children who come from entirely different circumstances. Over the years, I learned to be creative and find some way to connect with each one of them all so that they looked forward to coming to daycare.
However, the most exceptional experience that prepared me for this journey into and through education was when I became a father at the age of 18. Right after graduation and before I was supposed to report to football camp at Indiana University, I was truly blessed with the birth of my daughter. It was a huge learning curve that allowed me to go into any opportunity prepared with confidence. Being a father is tough. I never knew my father…never even met him. So there was still a huge learning curve on how to be a man as well as a father all at the same time.
Today, I continue to use all my experiences I have acquired through my life and translate that throughout my classroom teachings. But the best experience is being able to show my students that adults can be kids at heart too. So that is something that I remember to showcase every day to all my students.