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Teacher Feature: Meet KIPP Impact Middle School’s Teacher of the Year!

Great teachers work tirelessly to ensure each and every student in our city is prepared to make valuable contributions to our city in life beyond the classroom. That is why the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) is proud to honor the amazing teaching and learning that is happening in Duval County through the Teacher of the Year program. The journey begins when teachers are nominated by their colleagues and principals at the school level. From there, teachers are invited to participate in the EDDY Awards Experience where we have the pleasure of celebrating the incredible work happening in their classrooms.

As one way of showcasing these outstanding 177 school-level teachers of the year, we are excited to share their stories with you on our blog through the Teacher of the Year Series. Read on to discover how De-Shazo Wilkinson exemplifies the incredible work happening in Duval County Public Schools.

Meet De-Shazo Wilkinson, Seventh Grade Social Studies Teacher at KIPP Impact Middle School

I graduated from the University of Central Florida’s Teaching Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. My educational journey began in 2010 at Richardson Middle School in Lake City, Florida. Before taking my current role, I taught at the alternative school for juvenile delinquents formerly known as Challenge Learning Center in Columbia County, Florida. For the past four years, KIPP Impact Middle School has been my home where I have served as the Physical Education teacher, Transportation Discipline Liaison, Athletic Director, Assistant Athletic Director, Leadership Team Member, 7th Grade Civics Teacher, 7th Grade Level Chair, KIPP Teacher Leader Program graduate, Step Team Coach, KIPP Impact’s Annual Step Show Creator/Coordinator, KIPP Impact’s Haunted House Creator/Coordinator, Assistant Boys Basketball Coach and the Track and Field Assistant Coach.

I was inspired to continue my career in education by my first group of 7th graders at Richardson Middle School. I originally began teaching to take an academic break from my dream of becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy, but something happened midway through my first year: I fell in love with my students, I fell in love with this job and I found my passion. As cliché as it may sound, my students inspire me every day. To know that you have the power to directly influence the future ignites me, and I use that flame as my muse for cultivating successful citizens of tomorrow.

Because knowledge is gained through experiences, the information we retain becomes a part of who we are. Our knowledge begins to shape us into the mature adults we eventually become. When I share my knowledge and experiences with my students, I feel as though I am literally giving them a piece of myself. When a student receives said knowledge and a sense of understanding, achievement and pride course through their veins, “The Light Bulb Effect” occurs (this also known as an “Ah-Ha” moment) and I know I have done my job. My favorite aspect of teaching is when a student experiences an “Ah-Ha” moment. Recognizing when the pieces of myself find a new home with my students, meaning everything I have been teaching finally “clicks” in the student’s mind, is the most humbling and honorable feeling I have had the opportunity to enjoy.

As I grow as a teacher, I appreciate meaningful professional development experiences. KIPP believes that “there is always room to improve at every level and stage of career development.” Because of this belief, KIPP fosters ongoing growth and development through job-embedded coaching, school and region-wide professional development and national leadership training through the KIPP School Leadership Programs (KSLP). One of the reasons why I love KIPP is because of the amount of high-level Professional Development we receive. Consistent, daily, practical professional development occurs during the course of the entire school year. The most useful development I’ve received during my time at KIPP was the KSLP. KSLP is a yearlong course that provides training and support for a wide range of KIPP leaders, including grade-level chairs, department chairs, assistant principals, founding school leaders, successor school leaders and regional staff. We get the opportunity to visit other KIPP schools and enjoy fellowship with teachers from around the country who are all driven by the same student-oriented goals. 

KIPP is a unique charter school network because of the opportunities offered to all of our students, as well as the teachers. Some of these include one-hour-a-day band and our partnerships with The University of North Florida and Florida State University. KIPP also offers the “KIPP Through College” program, where we provide counselors that support students in high school placement, follow them and provide resources for academic success through high school graduation and eventually aid in the preparation, application and completion to and through college. KIPP Impact Middle School is also home to the “Stepaholics,” a nationally ranked step team coached by yours truly. The Stepaholics have performed and competed in Jacksonville and Atlanta; this past summer we earned an all-expense paid performance and a four-day trip to the Venetian in Las Vegas. KIPP Impact students also have the opportunity to earn an end-of-the-year multi-day educational excursion to Orlando (6th grade), Atlanta (7th grade) and Washington D.C (8th Grade). KIPP provides opportunities and experiences for students that American society unfortunately often overlooks.

Among the other many reasons why I love KIPP Impact Middle is our school culture. The mantra that we instill in all of our students, as well as our staff, is “Team and Family,” which refers to the idea that success isn’t solely based on the individual. Without my team and family here at KIPP, I would be lost. Observing other teachers, venting, adding to my toolkit, fellowship and solidifying my humanity are paramount to my sustainability and success as an educator.  The concept of “it takes a village” applied to every aspect of my upbringing and continues to guide me through my career.

Jacksonville’s teachers work hard to improve their students’ lives and our community as a whole. Please join JPEF in congratulating De-Shazo Wilkinson as the 2017-2018 KIPP Impact Middle School Teacher of the Year! Leave a comment for De-Shazo below or share your congratulations via facebook or twitter with the hashtag #EDDYAwardsJax.

Join us on Feb. 2 at the 27th Annual EDDYs Awards to celebrate Duval’s teachers of the year! Buy tickets here.

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