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Meet Stephanee Cook

Stephanee Cook headshot

Role: Lead Teacher

School: KIPP Seek Academy

Lead teacher Stephanee Cook is a kindergarten teacher at KIPP Seek Academy in Newark, New Jersey. Also an alumna of two KIPP New Jersey schools, Stephanee returned to her hometown of Newark to help inspire the next generation of the city’s students to love learning. Learn about her experience in KIPP NJ’s Teacher in Residence (TiR) program and her transition to the lead teacher role, below!

What motivated you to become a teacher?

As a kid, I loved school. My teachers made learning fun and I always appreciated feeling like I was part of a school community. I attended KIPP Rise Academy for middle school and graduated from KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy in 2015. During high school, I also attended a private school during my sophomore year, but I transferred back because it wasn’t the right place for me. At KIPP NJ, I always felt like my teachers cared about me as a person, not just academically. They would reach out to my mom to offer their support, or encourage me to come to office hours when I struggled with math. Their support made a huge difference in my life.

I decided to become an educator because I want to offer the same experience for the next generation in Newark. Choosing my home city of Newark was easy, because there’s so much good in this city. Some people think of Newark and have a negative association with the city, but it’s my home and I want the children here to develop the same love of learning that I did, so that perception can change. 

Tell us about your experience in KIPP New Jersey’s Teacher in Residence Program?

After graduating from Montclair State University with my degree in family science and human development, I joined KIPP Seek Academy as a Teacher in Residence supporting a kindergarten classroom. The program allowed me to enroll in the Relay Graduate School of Education, where I earned my K-6 teaching certificate. From the beginning, I realized how lucky I was to be a part of KIPP Seek Academy. If I had any questions, everyone was always willing to provide the answers, or help me find them. I also had frequent opportunities to connect with other TiR’s in the Newark program and we learned from one another during professional development sessions. 

During the program, I was assigned Alexis Conde as my coach and Christine Lynch as a lead teacher. Ms. Lynch taught me the importance of having patience, showed me the impact that a teacher’s organizational skills can have on students, and most importantly, taught me to always see the best in our students. Ms. Conde also gave me invaluable support as I navigated the Relay program and earned my certification. I am grateful to have learned from them both.

What has the transition been like for you as you step into a Lead Teacher position?

As a lead teacher this year, I now have full responsibility for my own kindergarten class. There’s many more responsibilities that fall on my plate, but I love the impact I can have on students each day. One of the best parts is being able to mentor a TiR and pass along my knowledge. 

My TiR is Alexis Etes and she takes feedback on her teaching really well. It hasn’t been too long since I went through her program, so I’m able to offer her support around things like pacing her lesson, which is something I struggled with at first when I was a TiR. Your first year as a teacher can be stressful, so we frequently check in with each other to make sure we’re on-track not just with our professional goals, but also personal goals, whether that’s carving out time to head to the gym or see friends and family. 

To learn more about joining our Teacher in Residence Program, head here!