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Meet Leslie Moreno

Role: Student Teacher

School: KIPP Upper Roseville Academy

For KIPP Upper Roseville Academy student-teacher Leslie Moreno, education wasn’t her first career path, but her positive experience tutoring two students in her neighborhood inspired her to go back to school and pursue a degree in education. Step inside her time at KIPP Upper Roseville Academy, below. 

What inspired you to become an educator?

Initially, it wasn’t something I planned to pursue as a career. I was a hair stylist with an associates degree in business. Then I started to tutor two second graders in my neighborhood. I realized how much joy I found in watching them learn and grow. At that point, I had been considering a career change for a while and I knew I wanted to go back to school, so I realized that education might be the perfect fit for me. 

Today, I’m a senior in my last year at Caldwell University. I have four classes left and I will graduate with my degree in Elementary Education in December and become a certified teacher in grades P-3 and K-6. 

Why did you choose KIPP NJ for your student teaching stint?

I knew about KIPP because KIPP Upper Roseville Academy is actually right around the corner from where I used to live. I had worked previously in Newark Public Schools and I wanted to try teaching in the charter school environment to be able to expand my teaching skills and experience something new. I also learned when I researched KIPP that they care about the social emotional side of student development in addition to academic learning, so that was appealing as well. 

What does a typical day look like for you as a virtual student teacher? Take us inside your virtual classroom.

Right now, I’m observing classes twice a week with First Grade teacher Ms. Aldana. I meet with her for about a half hour before we start, she goes over the schedule for the day before we launch into her morning message to students and then phonics and math lessons. 

The classes are very fast-paced and I love the energy Ms. Aldana brings to her virtual classroom, particularly during phonics. But my favorite subject to support is math. The math strategies KIPP uses are different from other schools where I’ve taught. KIPP uses the number bond method which encourages students to break down numbers into component parts. It looks like first graders are doing Algebra! It’s a more rigorous approach than I’ve seen before, but the students are clearly responding to it and understanding it well. 

How do you think your time at KIPP Upper Roseville Academy will impact your approach to education? 

One thing I’ve appreciated is that I check in frequently with Ms. Aldana and she’s always made herself so available when I have questions or need clarification. That’s been critical to working in a virtual environment, but even when we’re back in person, I hope to work in a place where I feel supported as I hone my teaching skills. 

I’ve also noticed that in KIPP Upper Roseville classrooms, students are encouraged to bring their full selves to the classroom, including their cultural heritage, from celebrations during Black History Month, to using the Spanish names of objects as we go over vocabulary. I hope to create a classroom culture where all students feel welcome when I begin my teaching career!

Leslie Moreno is a student at Caldwell University studying Elementary Education. She is a student teacher at KIPP Upper Roseville Academy in Newark, New Jersey.