Our Heartbeat

August 9-10 marked the first-ever Heartbeat Summit bringing together more than 850 instructional and non-instructional teammates from KIPP New Jersey and KIPP Miami with the goal of starting strong for the 2018-19 school year. The Summit offered professional development, team building, storytelling, student performances, and a pretty fun party.

“While what we DO has changed a lot in the last 16 years, who we ARE has not.”

From our first classroom of 80 fifth graders in 2002 to our current network of 12 schools across three cities, our team of educators have always held the shared beliefs that promises to children are sacred and that we must do whatever it takes to create schools where every child is safe, known, and loved. This set of guiding principles has become known as our Heartbeat.

This August, more that 850 teammates from Newark and Camden, NJ and Miami, FL gathered for our first Heartbeat Summit in Atlantic City. The Heartbeat Summit was an opportunity for us to reconnect and reflect on our shared understanding to ensure we’re delivering on our promise to all children, honoring the beauty and power of our cities and communities, and making our schools a place where kids genuinely love learning.  

Professional development session led by KIPP staff

While there was plenty of time spent on pedagogy and planning, the Heartbeat Summit highlighted a lesser known but prominent feature of our community, one of our core values: have fun! From beach yoga to parties to after parties, it’s important for teammates to let loose and build relationships across teams- especially if it results in some memorable karaoke moments.

“When we make a commitment to a child, we do whatever it takes to keep that promise.”

The event opened with remarks from KIPP NJ founder and CEO, Ryan Hill, and stories from some of our founding leaders. From founders Shawadeim Reagans’ initial skepticism about KIPP to Drew Martin’s story of a student who wasn’t always the easiest to have in a classroom to Joanna Belcher’s commitment to ALL kids to Leyla Bravo’s desire to bring it all home what stood out were some of the Heartbeat principles each storyteller shared:

  • When we make a commitment to our students, we do what it takes to keep that commitment, every time, with every kid.
  • We believe in each child’s potential and we are not quitters, which is why we never expel kids and do everything we can to keep students from leaving.
  • All kids matter to us, not just the ones in our schools. We consider the interests of all kids in our communities in all of our discussions and advocacy. We are good neighbors with other schools in our communities.
  • We treat our students and they treat each other with respect and love regardless of differences.

“This session should be required PD for every school!”

One of the core tenets of the Heartbeat is that “Outstanding TEAMmates are Everything.” The afternoon of Day One offered the opportunity for teammates to participate in the power of collective learning as featured in twelve teacher-led workshops such as “How to Engage Parents & Build Buy In,” “Racial Autobiographies,” “Striving for Balance,” and “Being a Lead Learner.” Educators walked away with practices they could start implementing in classrooms immediately.

Student performers from KIPP BOLD Academy

“You cannot write or teach or do anything of value in this life unless it comes from the heart.”

Day Two of the Heartbeat Summit started off with a focus on bringing our academic priority to life: Our Kids Love To Read, and We Do Too. Students from KIPP Rise Academy read personal short stories and middle school students from KIPP BOLD Academy performed “My Shot” from the musical Hamilton. This was followed by a keynote from acclaimed novelist and poet Sandra Cisneros, who shared how critical teachers were to her own development as a student and helped articulate the importance of writing in our literacy priority. After feeling “seen and known” by a teacher, Sandra flourished academically. Her keynote also re-framed for KIPP New Jersey and KIPP Miami teammates what it means to be a daydreamer.

Award-winning author Sandra Cisneros

Some of her most resonant words were: “Because of that teacher I started raising my hand. That teacher planted a seed that I was capable, smart, and loved.”

“What’s going on in those classrooms – that is the actual heartbeat.”

The Heartbeat Summit is about real stories, real people. Time was focused on connecting with colleagues across all of our cities, reigniting passion for our shared mission, and remembering and naming what it takes to be hyper-focused on kids and families.

Thank you to our TEAM and Family for making this an amazing and inspiring Heartbeat Summit! This is going to be a great school year because of all of you.

Teachers & staff celebrating at the 2018 Heartbeat Summit