This year, KIPP New Jersey gave out awards for our six values, an overall Mountains Beyond Mountains Award, and for the first time, a TEAM of the Year Award.

Each year, we honor a group of educators and support staff that make KIPP New Jersey a great place for students, at an event called the TEAMspys. New this year, we recognized a whole team through the Team of the Year Award, which recognizes a team working together in a unique way to create the largest impact for our students.

Here are this year’s winners in each category.

TEAMwork – Joy Skow, KIPP Lanning Square Middle

Outstanding TEAMmates are everything, and Joy Skow lives that every day at KIPP Lanning Square Middle. She sets an example for teammates in the building – she is “always positive, solutions-oriented and makes every teacher around her a better instructor and better person”. The eighth grade at KIPP Lanning Square Middle is as strong as it has ever been because of Joy’s presence and leadership of the eighth-grade team.

Other Nominees:

  • Michael Martin, KIPP BOLD Academy
  • Abdoul Ouedraogo, KIPP Rise Academy
  • Andrea Romero, KIPP Seek Academy

Freedom – Clare Rachko, KIPP Lanning Square Primary

The Freedom Award goes to someone in our network who uses the freedom they have to create new systems, innovations, or programs which impact students and student learning. This year’s winner, Clare Rachko from KIPP Lanning Square Primary, won this award for her work in establishing a strong special education program for KIPP Lanning Square Primary and Middle schools. In nominating Clare for this award, her colleagues said, “She builds new systems to help keep our kids in network and creates programs that meets our kids where they need.  Whether it’s taking kids to Wegman’s to teach them life skills or helping families navigate a medical crisis, she is always innovating and inventing new supports for our kids. As one nominator stated, “our school truly serves all kids, and that is because of Clare.”

Other Nominees:

  • Corey Harris, KIPP Life Academy
  • Isaac Abankwa, KIPP SPARK Academy
  • Marie Randall, KIPP New Jersey Nurse

Team of the Year, KIPP SPARK First Grade

New this year, we recognized a whole team being the change in an award called “TEAM of the Year”.

The TEAM of the Year award celebrates a group of teammates who are working together in a unique way to create the largest impact for our students.

Our first TEAM of the Year was KIPP SPARK Academy’s first-grade team. The first-grade team put up impressive results in math and ELA, served as a model for other campuses to visit, retained their entire team for next year, and have fun together outside of the day, proving the strong bonds they have with each other.

Other nominees:

  • KIPP Rise Academy sixth grade team
  • KIPP BOLD Academy seventh grade team
  • KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy freshman academy

Kinyette Henderson Fun TEAMspys 2018 Kinyette Henderson accepts the 2018 TEAMspy for Fun.

Fun – Kinyette Henderson, KIPP TEAM Academy

The Fun Award goes to a teammate who makes class fun for their students and work fun for their coworkers. This year’s winner, Kinyette Henderson from KIPP TEAM Academy does just that for her students and her campus. In the words of her nominators, Kinyette “is always positive and bringing joy to students and staff, whether it’s investing kids in PARCC, distributing weekly awards, leading Black History Month, or channeling Beyoncé as the Newark chapter president of the ‘Beyhive’.”

Other nominees:

  • Sha’Kea Robinson, KIPP SPARK Academy
  • Lacey Reynolds, KIPP BOLD Academy
  • Bryan Pawling, KIPP Lanning Square Middle

Improvement – Roopa Gottimukkala, Room 9

Next up, the improvement award. The improvement award is about creating improvements in a school or our network. This year we recognized KIPP New Jersey controller Roopa Gottimukkala, who is part of our shared services office.

Roopa was nominated for the improvements she has put into place across the network, like overseeing the launch of a new HRIS system, creating HR support for our KIPP cousins in Miami, creating a new employee handbook, and leading a legal 101 training for our school leadership, all while managing three different teams.

Roopa’s improvements benefit students and staff across our entire network, which is exactly the kind of improvement we’re talking about here.

Other nominees:

  • Jess Shearer, KIPP New Jersey
  • Anthony Walters, KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy
  • Sharmaine Lewis, KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy

Salisha Adams, from KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy wins the 2018 TEAMspy for Impact.

Impact – Salisha Adams, KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy

The impact award is about having a measurable impact on our schools and student achievement.

This year, we recognized Salisha Adams, from KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy, for the impact she’s had at her school. As the English department chair, students at KIPP NCA have seen the highest ACT scores in school history. Her leadership continues to drive student achievement throughout the English department.

Other nominees:

Laura Joseph, KIPP Rise Academy

Brittany Goodman, KIPP Lanning Square Primary

Krissy Kell, KIPP Rise Academy

Rachel Dukes, from KIPP Life Academy, wins the 2018 TEAMspy for Kid Focus.

Kid Focus – Rachel Dukes, KIPP Life Academy

The Kid Focus Award goes to a staff member who puts students first in everything they do. This year’s winner, Rachel Dukes from KIPP Life Academy, is a “true child whisperer” in the words of one nominator. When a child or family is in crisis, she is the first person they call. When KIPP Life alumni come back to visit, they go to her room first.

Other nominees:

  • Shakoor Woodson, KIPP Whittier Middle School
  • Stacie Alvarez, KIPP THRIVE Academy
  • Nivea Green, KIPP Pathways

Venus Henderson wins the 2018 Mountains Beyond Mountains TEAMspy.

Mountains Beyond Mountains – Venus Henderson, KIPP Rise Academy

The Mountains Beyond Mountains is our highest award and goes to someone in our network who exemplifies all our values. This year’s winner was KIPP Rise Academy’s office manager Venus Henderson. Venus does a thousand little things throughout the day to make sure KIPP Rise runs smoothly. She's also kept the campus running smoothly since KIPP Rise's founding in 2006.

She stays for all the dances and Saturday schools and community events. She forms relationships with EVERY single student, family, staff member and visitor that walks through the doors of KIPP Rise. Nominator after nominator said that Venus is the reason they are so committed to KIPP Rise.

Watch: Here are some of the shoutouts our staff shared in the lead up to the TEAMspys.

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