School Leader Spotlight: Ashley Peel, KIPP DC Grow Academy

Before she became KIPP DC Grow Academy’s school leader for the 2019-20 school year, Ashley Peel was a Resident in the Capital Teaching Residency honing her skills as an educator. As a graduate of Dickinson College with a bachelor’s in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies, her passion for educating early childhood students was something that found her. “I instantly fell in love with teaching from the moment I started at LEAP Academy as a Resident,” she said.

“A big part of that was because I saw myself in my students. I’m originally from the Bronx, New York, so being in Washington, D.C. and educating students in an urban environment always felt natural to me. It’s a passion I stumbled onto, but my students made me feel so welcome, and nine years later, I know this is where I am supposed to be.”

The first day of school is an exciting time of year, if not nerve-racking as students, staff, and families embark on a new journey together. Particularly for a new school leader with the responsibility of leading a school community from the moment those doors open. For Ms. Peel, who’s called Grow Academy home for the past four years as vice-principal, there was a sense of normalcy to the moment.

“In my four years as a vice-principal, I had to learn a lot about leadership and what it takes to lead a school. One of my biggest lessons is that you believe in the people you work for, the people you work with, and the people who work for you. So when the first day of school came, I just felt ready because I knew I had a team to do this really important work with!”

As much as students grow as scholars and leaders throughout their educational journeys, so do educators. Asked to juxtapose Ashley Peel now to herself nine years ago, and theme of growth immediately springs to mind. “There was so much I had to learn about being a professional teaching early childhood or what it means to claim a space as a woman of color confidently,” she remarked.

“Now leading hundreds of kids and countless staff members, I think intentionally about what I’m modeling for them. Everything I do is with purpose, but it’s also unpacking what I do in an intentional way to teach my leaders to teach my teachers. And also to model for our students who we are as people is important and that we all belong.”

Belonging in the classroom is a crucial element of the educational experience for KIPPsters’ at Grow Academy and is the precursor to meaningful learning in the classroom. While Ms. Peel functions as the leader of the school, she praises the effort and dedication of the staff at Grow for showing up every day for their students and each other. “It’s our job that we are first teaching them that we love them and we care about who they want to become. That’s one of the things I love about working with the staff we have at Grow. The work we do is hard, and just their authentic approach to being in front of students and also being there for each other is really special.”

The teachers and staff at Grow Academy tasked with educating and developing a love of learning in some of our youngest students. This work is grounded in a school culture committed to positivity, learning, and unconditional love of students. From Resident to school leader, Ashley Peel’s journey and approach to each day embody this commitment.

Posted on September 6, 2019 in Community