May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Our KIPP DC AAPI teammates play an essential role in supporting the success of our students. We are proud to highlight a few of their personal stories and the work they do to empower our students to reach their dreams.
Lydia Jing, 1st Grade Special Education Teacher, Lead Academy
My parents moved from China to America in their twenties so that my sister and I could have access to educational opportunities they never had. I teach at KIPP DC because every child deserves an equal chance at success, and providing that opportunity starts with having teachers who advocate for students’ needs while recognizing that we’re playing in a rigged education system. I aim to instill a passion and resilience for learning in students so that I can multiply their opportunities the way my parents did for me.
Jaishri Shankar, Vice Principal, KIPP DC College Preparatory
I am a first generation Indian-American woman. And I am a teacher. My parents are immigrants, and my sister and I were born and brought up in the United States. Home has always been between two different countries, conversations have always happened in two different languages, and my identity has always been split between two very different cultures. Education wasn’t the career I envisioned for myself – I originally set out to be a doctor. In my senior year, I realized that I wasn’t really passionate about medicine; the best part of my college experience was my part-time job, tutoring student-athletes. I became a science teacher and fell in love with the joy, curiosity, and brilliance that comes with our students – and all these years later, that same joy, curiosity, and brilliance keeps me coming back every single day. I can’t think of a better career than working to build a more just and equitable country for our students and the generations that come after them, and working to ensure that all students have equitable access to opportunities in high school and beyond. Being an Indian-American woman and being a teacher are two integral parts of my identity, and I am so grateful to be a part of a team where I get to share both those pieces of me each and every day.
Susannah Tsien, Instructional Math Coach
My name is Susannah Tsien. Tsien comes from my father who is a first generation Chinese American, it is pronounced “Chen”. My last name is a very important part of my identity as a half Chinese woman. Growing up, people rarely pronounced it correctly and never dared to ask the correct pronunciation. And I, hoping to stand out less, never offered the correct pronunciation. Today, I am proud of my name and eager to share it (and correct it!) as a part of who I am.
I am the 1st and 2nd Math Instructional Coach for Elementary Schools. I joined KIPP DC in 2010 as a 1st Grade CTR at KIPP DC: Promise Academy. Since then, I have taught several elementary grades before transitioning to this current role. It feels like an eternity ago, but I joined KIPP DC because I felt a passion and duty for making sure all students in DC (my hometown!), received the same quality of education that I did. My commitment and sense of connectedness has only grown since then. In my role today, I support school teams in making sure every 1st and 2nd grade student is a part of a joyful math community in which students use math to understand the world around them.
Patrick Wu, Algebra II Lead Teacher, KIPP DC College Preparatory
Both of my parents are from Taiwan, therefore I identify as Taiwanese American. My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s with very little. They came to Washington, DC because there was a strong Taiwanese community here and many Chinese restaurants where they could easily find work. After many years of hard work and saving, they were then able to open their own restaurant in the suburbs Baltimore, MD and moved out there, where they started a family. Growing up, my parents instilled in me and my sister the value of hard work, service to others, and the importance of education. As a first-generation Asian American family, my parents also reminded us of the responsibility we had to give back to others because of all that had been given to us. In college, I studied social justice and decided that I wanted to commit the rest of my life to what I thought was the most important social justice fight of our generation: inequity in education. Shortly after college, I began teaching at a KIPP school in North Carolina before moving to Chicago to teach there. I then moved back to the DMV area when my mother was diagnosed with dementia to be closer to her, taking a job as an adviser with an educational non-profit organization. However, I missed being in the classroom and when the COVID19 pandemic hit, I knew that the inequities in education would only broaden, therefore, I decided this past year to return to the classroom with KIPP: DC. I believe in KIPP:DC and its mission in large part because my parents raised me with many of the same values that we cultivate in our students: a strong work ethic, a sense of service, and the belief that education can transform our communities for the better.
Sharina Woo, Strategic Projects Extern
I am the youngest of two, born to immigrant parents from Hong Kong and Malaysia meaning I grew up celebrating holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but also Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. At home, I communicate with my grandparents in Cantonese which I learned growing up through Saturday school.
In addition to encouraging me to embrace my cultural roots, my parents supported my love for education. I remember waking up each morning excited to learn and “teach” my parents what I had learned that day. Their continued support combined with my intellectual curiosity were what enabled me to graduate from university with a business degree and land my first job as an Associate Consultant at Bain & Company.
As such, when the opportunity arose to pursue an externship, I knew I wanted to pursue a role in the education sector. As I researched various organizations, KIPP DC immediately caught my attention with its mission to empower the next generation of leaders – a perfect alignment with my personal values. And now, I have the honor of helping further support this mission to create the leaders of tomorrow.