Ellen fell in love with KIPP Indy when she first came here to teach in 2009. As the fifth grade math teacher, she knew KIPP Indy was a special place that invested deeply in staff and believed all students could learn and achieve at high levels if given the opportunity. “What I loved about KIPP from the beginning, and what I still love, is that every single person in this building is willing to work hard to ensure our kids get the opportunities they deserve.” As a teacher, Ellen and the other members of the fifth grade team poured themselves into their students. “Our kids were coming to us significantly behind grade level. They were having to play catch up and they were only ten years old.” Ellen describes the fifth grade culture as a place where kids knew that their teachers loved them and were going to hold them to high expectations because of that.
It was Ellen’s experience as a fifth grade teacher that motivated her to found KIPP Indy’s first elementary school. “I could see the impact we were having, and I didn’t want to wait until our kids were ten. We should be starting as soon as possible.” She wanted to make a school where right from the very beginning students feel loved for who they are. The school is named Unite because Ellen believes in strong partnerships between staff, students, and families. “I want students to know that everyone is on their team, and we will work together to support them to get what they need.”
When describing what’s most critical to the success of the school, Ellen focuses on teachers. “Teachers mean everything. We cannot run a successful school without really great people. We could set a vision and learn from and observe other schools, but we can’t make that vision a reality without really amazing teachers.”
KIPP Indy Unite Elementary is currently in its second year serving 200 students in grades kindergarten and first. The school will continue to add a grade level each year until they ultimately serve 600 students in grades K-5.