Antoine Lewis is the principal of KIPP AMP Middle School, but he’s also a KIPP parent whose daughter attends KIPP STAR Harlem College Prep Elementary. That personal connection is a big part of what drives him to create a school where students are challenged, loved, and inspired to become change-makers. Antoine started his career in Baltimore and was previously a teacher at KIPP Washington Heights before taking over at KIPP AMP. Today, he’s excited about his new role as a leader and role model in his new neighborhood.
What inspires you to do what you do?
My daughter and students motivate me every day to wake up and do this work. It is important that my students see someone who looks like them and who shares similar experiences. It’s important that they see someone and think, “Hey, my principal looks just like me. If he can do it, I can do it.” I get up every day for my daughter. When I began teaching in Baltimore, I knew I wanted to touch lives inside the classroom. I wanted to inspire more lives both in and outside of the classroom, and then when my daughter was born. I said, “I would love to build a school that I would send my daughter to,” and that is the journey I am on. I will continue to build this school so that when my daughter’s in 5th grade, she’ll say, “Hey, I go to my father’s middle school!”
What makes KIPP, a special place to work?
Team and family is what makes KIPP a special place to work. It’s one thing to say that you are a team and family; it’s another to actually live that out in all that you do. My team shows up every single day, the way that I show up, and we work alongside each other. We all see each other as equals who do this work together. We talk about other stakeholders, family dynamics, and getting our families involved in what we do at our school. Our families are also a part of this team, and we all work together to make this school the best school for our children.
Our students make KIPP special. We talk to our students about getting them to and through college. We begin this conversation as soon as they join us at KIPP. It is special when our students hear that they’re going to and through college for the first time. It gives you joy as an adult and as an educator, to walk in and speak this promise into existence. We start this journey, as a team and family, and watch it unfold. It’s special and it’s amazing.
How do you think KIPP is changing the world?
I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin and James Baldwin once stated that, “As one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” Every single day, that’s what we push our students to do. To examine the world for what it is, talk about how we can improve, and develop a plan to get there. We talk about that as educators, with parents, as an entire KIPP organization, across the country. When you have a bunch of people who are dedicated to just that, that’s special and that’s amazing. That’s how I know that KIPP is changing the world, because we’re doing just that, within ourselves, within our students and ultimately within every community that we serve.