Growing up, Chelsey Tubbs thought she’d become a politician. While still in high school, she became a teaching assistant and everything changed. “After being in the classroom for only a month,” she tells us, “I determined that I would push my kids to be the politicians. They would be the ones transforming their communities.” Chelsey started her teaching journey with Teach For America, and eventually became part of the KIPP STAR Middle School team in Harlem as a teacher and then dean. Now, as Principal at KIPP AMP Elementary in Brooklyn, Chelsey is taking on new challenges as she shares her thoughts about her vision for KIPP AMP, and what inspires her to wake up so early every morning.
What inspires you to do this work?
It’s very personal. I went to school in a district that did experience, and is continuing to experience, challenges, so when making promises to students and families, especially when there are challenges within a community, I take that really seriously. That is what has driven me. It’s easy to get up early every morning when you love what you do. When I see my students, families, and staff as I enter the building, and see their excitement for learning and for each other… it’s inspiring and remains motivating throughout the day and year.
KIPP stands for Knowledge is Power Program. What does “knowledge is power” mean to you?
My parents told me from a very young age that education is the way out. Education brings choice, and education brings freedom. I have seen this play out in my own family.
Being a woman of color, I know that furthering my own education has given me so many more opportunities. I have power and choices because of my knowledge and because I know how to advocate for myself.
What makes KIPP stand out is that we are educating the whole child. It’s not just about academic rigor and pushing our students to college. Character is a really important piece, and I think a lot about the character strengths and advocacy skills that our students need in order to go to and through college successfully.
What are some words that describe KIPP AMP?
Strong, colorful, and… just amazing. We have amazing students, amazing families, and amazing staff.
When I think about strength, I think about our Afro-Caribbean families who bring the richness of their heritage to our school. Whether they’re first generation or second generation, they’ve come to the United States and pushed for a better education for their children, and that makes us all stronger.
Color is something that comes through our students’ personalities. We have a fantastic arts program in which we have several courses, including band, dance, theater, visual arts, and PE. We’re seeing their color come through not only in what they produce in the classroom, but as they feel more confident, their light shines bright and they really show their personalities to the world.
How will staff grow at your school?
One of the many things that keeps me at KIPP is that I’m continuing to learn. I’m a true nerd. I’m a teacher, right? I read all the time and I’m still pushed daily by my leaders so I know where I need to grow. There’s also a menu of great structured programs and I think that’s something that’s very unique to KIPP. We’ve also done a lot more in reflecting around how we train our teachers and staff. We’re fortunate enough at KIPP NYC to take every Wednesday afternoon as a half day for students, so that teachers can come together and get specialized professional development. Then when we come together as a network, we’re able to share best practices across the region, and I can continue to push my own development and my teachers’ development.