When Casey McLeod graduated from Purdue University with a degree in chemistry, she never thought that she would become a teacher. After graduation, she put her degree to use working as a synthetic organic chemist for the DOW Chemical Company. Over time, she started to crave something new. McLeod explains, “I loved working at DOW, but as time went on I had a passion for doing something that had a deeper impact on the community in which I lived.” After a short time pursuing public policy in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., she was ready to get back to her home state. “Ultimately, I felt I needed to be closer to the ground. I moved back to Indianapolis and joined the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows.” After studying schools across the area, McLeod knew that KIPP Indy was the school for her. “The belief systems that KIPP Indy has about teaching academics simultaneously with character was something that I believed in for students, as well as the overall mission that all students can and will achieve greatness.”
Now in her fourth year of teaching at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle, Casey cannot imagine her immediate future outside of KIPP Indy. She feels that the students are what keep her coming back year after year. In addition to her love and dedication for her students, she has a deep appreciation for the team and family culture that is a core pillar of KIPP Indy. McLeod explains, “I have honestly never worked with a more intelligent, passionate, and hardworking staff than the team that I work with at KIPP Indy.”
McLeod is blown away by the incredible amount of support that teachers at KIPP Indy receive. She describes KIPP Indy as being a school with an open door policy, where teachers are constantly in and out of each other’s classrooms providing feedback and support. “You’re not going to get stagnant here. You’re going to continue to grow as an educator. Regardless of whether you are a first year teacher or have years and years of experience, you will grow here,” McLeod elaborates.
The appreciation is mutual. Nick Perry, principal of KIPP Indy College Middle, raves about McLeod’s influence on the school. “To describe in words Casey’s impact on students, families, and our school community over the last four years is difficult to do, as her influence has been felt in so many ways. She has been an influential figure in defining what teaching excellence means at our school, and the bar she sets for herself, her students, and her colleagues helps us to continue driving our work forward and improving year after year,” said Perry.
While McLeod has experienced her fair share of struggle in the transition to teaching, her love for her students is evident in everything that she does. When describing her proudest accomplishment in the classroom, she focuses in on her relationships with students. One of the unique challenges of teaching middle school is that students are in a struggle to determine their self-identity that can impact all parts of their lives. McLeod recalls one student in particular who was really struggling with determining who she was, and was letting that struggle seep into her home and academic relationships. McLeod worked with her one-on-one and spent all year having conversations where the student could freely speak her mind. Over the summer, McLeod received a simple text from this student saying ‘you helped me figure out who I am, and now nothing can stop me.’ It is moments like this that inspire McLeod to remain in the classroom.
Although McLeod’s path to the classroom was a winding one, she has found her home. She explains, “I don’t see a future outside of the classroom. My energy comes from the students and interactions with them. My future may change content or grade levels, but it is definitely in the classroom.”