Building a School Community at KIPP Stockton

Brandon Piasecki (Mr. P), Founding Science teacher at KIPP Stockton Middle School.

It’s great to know that before the first day of school my students and I have one thing in common. I’m from Stockton, too! I had a really happy childhood. Lots of friends, a family with strong roots, and a great community. But I was constantly being told that I couldn’t be successful if I stayed in Stockton. So I worked hard and enrolled in the University of Redlands in 2007. 

College was great, I majored in chemistry and minored in creative writing. It was during my senior year of college I started to think more seriously about what I would be doing after I graduated. I knew that I really enjoyed working with youth from my time volunteering with a mentorship program, so I knew teaching was something that I might want to try. I started to reflect on my own educational experience. 

I want to connect what they are learning in my class to their lives. I want to cultivate community through connecting points.

Of my high school class of 900 freshman students, only 50% graduated, and of that graduating class only 10% went on to a four-year university. While the numbers were standard at the time based on national demographics it still felt crazy and unfair to me. The feeling of needing to do something ate at me. So I joined Teach for America  after college knowing that I believed in their mission and thinking “If I love it, great, I’m already in the teaching field, but if I don’t love it, it’s only two years and I get some cool life experiences from it.” 

Honestly, the first year did not go as well as I would have wanted but I learned from it and came back as a better teacher. My time spent there was eye-opening and set the foundations for how I’ve taught for the past 11 years. When I’m my goofy authentic self I’m able to connect with students and find common ground. That is especially important because lots of people struggle with learning science. When I connect with students I’m able to show them how science is actually really cool and can provide value in their life.  

Conducting an in-class science experiment!

Now that I’m teaching back in my hometown at KIPP Stockton Middle School I’m excited to build relationships with my students, especially after the past year and a half of distance learning. We’ll discuss the seasons and earth’s rotation and how it affects their lives. We’ll learn why exactly Stockton is so hot in the summer. I want to connect what they are learning in my class to their lives. I want to cultivate community through connecting points. We’ll talk about where you can go in Stockton to cool off and even how I used to cool off as a kid.

Students need to feel safe in class, I want to include practices like community circles where we talk about a specific question and students can express themselves freely. When students feel safe there’s room to explore and celebrate all of their different identities.I have an opportunity to honor students’ identities through my teaching. For example, when we start discussing stars and constellations, there are so many different cultures that have studied the stars and looked at constellations. I want to acknowledge that and explore with my students the way their cultures’ have used, studied, or told stories about constellations and if they’re not aware, give them the push to ask their own families or to investigate it together.

I’m a founding science teacher at KIPP Stockton Middle School. Being a founding teacher is really exciting to me especially after a decade of teaching experience. To have a vision for a school and have the opportunity to bring it to life and build school culture and community from the beginning is amazing! I really love the vision that Kim (Kimanh Truong-Muñoz, School Leader) has for the school. There’s a dream team of teachers she hired and we all came from different places and experiences. Working with my fellow KIPP Stockton Middle School teachers is a huge part of why I love my job.

I want parents to know that KIPP Stockton Middle School will be a school that their students will enjoy attending. Families will be involved in the conversations and know that our doors are open. I just want parents to feel welcomed and empowered to share and offer their wisdom and experiences. I believe parents, caregivers, and families are instrumental in the success of a student. So it’s really important that we acknowledge that we couldn’t do anything without their support and empowering parents to work in community with us.

 I believe parents, caregivers, and families are instrumental in the success of a student.

I hope that our students feel a joy for learning that they’ve never felt before. I want it to be beyond anything I’ve ever felt before in my own school experience. I want that joy to trickle into the community through our students and their families. 

My goal as a teacher is to take what I was told about Stockton growing up and flip it on its head. I want them to be inspired and empowered to come back to Stockton as adults and start businesses and organizations that continue to build up their city and community. 

Enroll your student at KIPP Stockton Middle School today!

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