Each year, we get together as a network to celebrate hard work and achievement. And have fun. This celebration is called the TEAMspys, the Greatest Night of Your Life, after the ESPYs.
We give out an award for each of our values and an all-around MVP for the network, which we call the Mountains Beyond Mountains award. This year, we introduced a campus MVP award for each of our opened schools, and our Room 9 school support office. All of the TEAMspys come with monetary prizes, as well as bragging rights for the winners and their campus.
Here are the prizes given out:
- TEAMwork – $2,500
- Fun – $2,500
- Freedom – $2,500
- Improvement – $2,500
- Impact – $2,500
- Kid Focus – $2,500
- Mountains Beyond Mountains Nominees – $2,500 each
- Mountains Beyond Mountains Winner – $5,000
- Campus MVPs – $1,000 for each winner
- 4 Year Longevity Awards – $500
- 8 Year Longevity Awards – $1,000
- 12 Year Longevity Awards – $1,500
This Year’s Winners
Here is the breakdown of winners and nominees for each category this year:
The winner of the TEAMwork award puts the needs of others before their own. The person who will sacrifice their own time and priorities to make sure others have the support they need. This year we recognized Meghan St. Cyr, TEAM Academy 8th grade chair and math teacher. Here are some things nominators said about Meghan:
- Last year, when TEAM was looking hard for an 8th grade Math teacher, they looked to Meghan—then a 7th grade Social Studies teacher—to not only teach a new subject, but to lead a grade level she had never taught before.
- She is the reason the 8th grade team, which traditionally is a tough year for kids, is now the strongest in the school.
- She never shies away from challenges, and works relentlessly to see projects through to the end.
- Teryn Thomas – Kindergarten teacher and interim school leader, THRIVE Academy
- Jessica Boston – 1st grade teacher and grade level leader, SPARK Academy
The Fun TEAMspy goes to a staff member that above all, knows how to have fun, makes learning fun for kids, and brings fun to their co-workers on a regular basis. This year, we recognized TEAM technology teacher Kristen Sigler. Here are some things her colleagues said about her:
- It’s not unusual to walk into Kristen’s class and see kids wearing super hero costumes, holding plastic heads or wearing Viking helmets—or stomping on bubble wrap to celebrate the end of a trimester.
- Kristen is a “Kid-whisperer”, using fun to connect deeply with some of the most challenging kids in the school.
- Kristen is one of the hardest working teachers at TEAM Academy—and even though they’re enjoying themselves, her students are some of the hardest working at TEAM as well.
- One nominator said: “I know that when I go to work every day, I can count on Kristen to brighten my day.”
- Sauce Leon – History teacher and 11th grade leader, Newark Collegiate Academy
- Kylie Taylor – Reading teacher and department leader, Newark Collegiate Academy
The Freedom award means you use your talents and abilities to innovate new programs, practices and ideas in service of our students. The freedom award goes to someone who takes the freedom given to our staff and runs with it, leading a culture of innovation in our network. This year we recognized Travis Dempsey, 6th grade Math teacher and grade level leader at Rise Academy. Here are some things nominators said about Travis:
- On any given day, Travis’s kids could be working at the math bar, logging points on Accelerated Math, participating in a mini-lesson on problem solving with Travis, or logging their work on Senteos for everyone to see.
- His model for pushing all of his kids to enormous gains has spread through other schools and classrooms in TEAM, but also through the rest of KIPP.
- Travis has redefined how a math classroom should look.
- Travis turned his classroom upside down when realizing his highest-achieving students weren’t being pushed to improve.
- Ruben Restrepo – Spanish teacher, SPARK Academy
- Nima Rouhanifard – 8th Grade math teacher and grade level chair, Rise Academy
The Improvement award goes to someone who constantly seeks to get better themselves, or make their school a better place, no matter how good it already is. Improvement also means finding ways to benefit as many students as possible. It means finding solutions to complex problems and doing so in innovative ways. This year we recognized Dr. Keli Swearingen, director of curriculum and instruction for the network. Here’s some of what was said about Keli:
- In just a couple of years, Keli has, in the words of one, “transformed our approach to teaching and learning.”
- Said one Dean of Instruction, “Keli is a genius and I am learning more from her than I have in years.”
- Keli has taken on the daunting task of ensuring that every teacher in the network has all the resources they need to teach a college preparatory curriculum.
- Said one nominator, “she knows how important freedom is, and understands how to strike a precise balance between holding a high standard and letting teachers do what they do best.”
- Katie Ibeh – Science teacher and department leader, Newark Collegiate Academy
- Marc Sorresso – 7th grade Math teacher and grade level leader, Rise Academy
Though it has many definitions, to us impact means putting kids on a path to college or the career of their choice in a measurable way. We look for measurable results in whatever we do, rather than hold on to process or tradition. The impact award goes to a staff member that measurably pushes students and staff closer to our vision of making Newark and Camden cities of world-class education. This year, we recognized Kerry Boccher, SPARK Academy director of special education. Kerry’s nominators spanned across her campus, from classroom teachers, to special education teachers and para-professionals. Here are some of the many things they said:
- She is “the fearless Amazonian warrior of Response to Intervention (RTI) and she does not stop until all scholars are getting the education they deserve.”
- People rave about her professional development sessions and the feedback protocol she implemented for her team.
- She vouches for every kid’s specific need, and influences those around her to do the same.
- She has worked tirelessly to ensure that the scholars who need the most are getting exactly what they need.
- Kyle Newsome – Dean of students, Newark Collegiate Academy
- Alexa Rowek – Special education director, TEAM Academy
Kid focus means you seek what is best for our students and the schools that would serve them, rather than what is best for yourself or your team. It means you believe promises to kids are sacred, so you keep them. This year we recognized Newark Collegiate Academy math teacher and 10th grade level leader Bryan McKenzie. Here are some of the many things his nominators said:
- He has an encyclopedic knowledge of his students and their stories.
- He never gives up and never allows kids to give up on themselves.
- One nominator said: “he takes the time to build a culture of precision in his classes, and he gets what he wants from kids. In turn, they get what they want from him – a purposeful, accessible education.”
- He takes time to teach students his extremely high expectations, and then teaches them at a level of rigor they deserve.
- Charles Wells – School custodian, THRIVE and Seek Academy
- Herbert Ruth – Upper school learning specialist and basketball coach, Rise Academy
The Mountains Beyond Mountains award goes to our network MVP. It’s based off a book by the same name about Dr. Paul Farmer who in the face of almost certain failure at eradicating diseases, refused to give up.
This year, we recognized Mariel Elguero, dean of instruction and 7th grade teacher at Rise Academy. Here are some of the many, many things nominators said:
- There is nothing she wouldn’t do (and there is nothing she hasn’t done) for our school.
- This year in particular, Mariel moved from 5th grade where she was extremely successful to the 7th grade to make the school better, even though that meant hundreds of hours of new planning on top of her duties as Dean of Instruction.
- Mariel has held many positions at Rise. Everytime she takes a new position, it’s been for the kids.
- “She is one of the most brilliant and joyful teachers you will ever have the chance to witness, and she is my source of inspiration as an instructional coach as well.”
- Diane Adams-White – Dean of students and families, SPARK Academy
- Mark Joseph – 5th grade math teacher, Rise Academy
New This Year
This year, we also recognized a MVP at each campus. Each campus nominated and voted for their own MVP, taking into consideration any factors that make someone the most valuable teammate. This year’s winners were:
SPARK – Emma Limatola
THRIVE – Diane Revalski
Seek – Rebecca Fletcher
TEAM – Kristen Sigler
Rise – Sarina Rutherford
NCA – Roger Cortegana
Room9 – Charlene Squire-Brandon
TEAMspy winners are just a small sample of the great staff we have who are a pleasure to work with every single day. Next year, we’ll recognize a new group of inspirational people around our growing network, who work tirelessly for kids to put them on the path to college or careers day in and day out.
Michael Alderman is the communications manager for TEAM Schools. You can find him on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.