Meet Ms. Tinika Edwards | Kindergarten Special Education Teacher | KIPP DC Grow Academy
We want to recognize Ms. Tinika Edwards as KIPP DC’s November Staff Spotlight! She is a kindergarten special education teacher at KIPP DC’s Grow Academy and joined KIPP DC in 2016 as a Resident in the Capital Teaching Residency Program. Before joining KIPP DC, Ms. Edwards, a Largo, Maryland native, graduated from Hampton University, where she studied communications with a concentration in Public Relations, initially aiming to work in the sports and entertainment industry.
While working in the entertainment industry, she quickly realized that her true calling was to be an educator. We recently connected with her to gain insight into her journey at KIPP DC.
What led you to want to work in education and, inevitably, at KIPP DC?
“I signed up for an elective teaching course initially designated for education majors in college. I was allowed to take this course as an elective after I insisted on doing so, and I ended up loving it. Afterward, I began my internship at Viacom and was eventually hired as a talent coordinator.
Traveling across the country, working with international artists, and even attending award shows were exciting! In 2016, I was in Los Angeles for the BET awards, and during all the chaos, I realized that my heart was with children and I needed to be an educator! So, I started researching at that moment and came across an opportunity at KIPP DC.
The Capital Teaching Residency deadline had passed, but I applied on a whim. A week later, I received a call from KIPP DC because someone withdrew their application, and I got interviewed for the spot, which is how I got in.”
How have you grown in your time at KIPP DC?
“Initially, I started my journey at KIPP DC as someone who absorbed so much knowledge from everything and everyone I saw. The support and advice from mentors and others have also been beneficial to my growth. As a seasoned teacher, I love branching out and giving all the insight I’ve learned to new teachers eager to grow.”
What’s the best memory that you have at Grow Academy?
“The first thing that popped up was when I was a Resident. At the time, the mannequin challenge was popular and a great way to have a joyful learning experience together. We went to the playground, I provided instructions, and they nailed it on the first take! Everyone was frozen, and it was such an iconic moment. I showed the videos to the principal, and she shared them with everyone. It’s important to remember that hard work happens in the background, but we still have to manage and have fun to make the best of it. At that moment, I realized that we don’t always need to have a typical day and can do fun and exciting activities!”
What is your favorite thing about KIPP DC students?
“I love that no student is the same. The other day, I was thinking about this, and our students embrace their authentic selves here. And the personalities are extraordinarily beautiful to me – it’s something I didn’t see growing up.”
How do you foster a sense of belonging in your class?
“Making sure that all students feel seen and heard is a significant part of my work. Whenever challenges arise, we handle them together. This is because, typically, when a child does something wrong, they’re labeled as bad, but they’re not. They just made a bad choice. I always talk about that because that’s how children develop. So, we celebrate things together, and if something goes wrong, we deal with that together too. This creates a strong sense of belonging because my students know that I will uplift them no matter what.”
If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them?
“I would take them to my homeland, Trinidad! Most of our students will hear my accent, especially if there’s emotion behind the statement. This creates an opportunity to learn and understand languages outside of English and Spanish. So, I would love to take them home and have them experience different kinds of foods and learn about other cultures.”
Ms. Edwards is a phenomenal educator who continues to make a profound difference within our school community. We are proud to feature her as this month’s Staff Spotlight and look forward to her many positive contributions to our students’ educational journeys.