A Leader of Dragons: RKES' New Principal
In fall 2019, Bright Star Schools opens our ninth tuition-free public charter school, Rise Kohyang Elementary School in Koreatown!
We’re currently enrolling transitional kindergarten and kindergarten: Apply in English // 다음 학년으로 입학 지원 // Aplique en Español
Learn more about Rise Kohyang Elementary School! We sat down with our new Rise Kohyang Elementary School principal, Kaitlin Curry Allen, to learn more about how our newest school will serve elementary students and families in Koreatown.
How did you become a teacher and education leader?
I was born in a small town in rural West Virginia and raised by two educators. My mom was an elementary school teacher, and my dad was a middle school principal and superintendent. Being part of a family of educators taught me the power of a transformative education.
As a kid, I played teacher with my two little sisters. I made worksheets, made them complete them, graded them and told them what they needed to work on!
After graduate school at Georgetown University, where I focused on early literacy and teaching practices, I joined Teach For America as an 8th grade English teacher in Memphis, TN. After four years in Memphis, I headed west. I became a 10th grade teacher at Bright Star’s Valor Academy High School and then Valor’s Assistant Principal of Instruction for four years.
What’s your educational philosophy?
I’ve learned over the years that every child, regardless of who they are or where they come from, is capable of great things. We just have to create an environment where they can show us that.
Every child deserves a physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe school, positive relationships with their teachers, a supportive and relevant curriculum, social-emotional learning, joy, and rigor. Students deserve to be celebrated and validated consistently so that they become confident, courageous, and kind adults.
What’s your vision for Rise Kohyang Elementary School (RKES)?
The vision of Rise Kohyang Elementary School (RKES) is that all RKES scholars will become leaders who act with integrity and champion equity to enrich our communities and the world. We have two big goals. First, 100% of RKES scholars will graduate from our school reading, writing, and doing math at or above grade level, placing them on a trajectory to be highly successful in rigorous middle and high schools.
Secondly, and just as importantly, 100% of RKES dragons (our mascot!) will graduate from our school with emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. So much of what we believe about ourselves and about school is set at an early age, and we want our students to believe that they can learn, that learning is fun, and that school is a place they enjoy being.
My other commitment to families is safety -- physical, intellectual, and emotional safety. I want our students to be curious, ask questions, learn, and feel supported. I know our families are trusting us with their babies! We don’t take that lightly. We are responsible for our students’ well-being and success.
How will RKES support students?
Academically, students will be supported through a rigorous curriculum, personalized learning, interventions, and celebrations. We will continuously check progress and know students’ strengths and areas of growth, so that we can provide immediate support. We want to meet students where they are and help them develop into the scholars we know they can become.
Students will also be supported through the relationships that they build with their teachers. We want to make sure that teachers develop positive relationships with all students, where they see the whole child — not only their academic growth and achievement, but their emotions, passions, and families. Students will receive social-emotional support through weekly lessons on the RULER, the emotional intelligence curriculum that we recently adopted from Yale University. We are also integrating the arts and technology into our classrooms.
Finally, the biggest support that we can give students is transparent and frequent communication and collaboration with their families so that students feel supported in every aspect of their lives.
What are the school’s values?
Our Bright Star values are integridad, kohyang, ubuntu, and growth. For our RKES Dragons, we teach our values as:
Integridad = brave hearts
Kohyang = kind spirits
Ubuntu = kind spirits
Growth = strong minds
We want it to be clear for our students about what our values mean and how to embody them. To celebrate students with brave hearts, for example, might be recognizing a student who was honest about something or stood up for someone.
Why are you interested in leading Rise Kohyang Elementary School (RKES)?
I am so excited to lead Rise Kohyang Elementary School because I know how important it is for all students to build foundational academic, emotional, and social skills so that they can flourish in middle and high school. My graduate school experience led me to research early literacy and language development, and my experience at the secondary level has given me a clear vision of where our elementary school students will need to be to succeed in middle school, high school, and college.
An elementary school also offers the unique opportunity to build a strong community within the school and a culture where parents can volunteer, are invited on field trips, and participate in cultural nights, family engagement events, workshops, and coffee and chats with me. It excites me to get our school parents involved in Rise Kohyang Elementary School activities, and I plan to be as available to parents as possible.
The diversity of Koreatown excited me. I truly believe that we’re as strong as we are diverse, and I welcome the perspectives, languages, and cultures of the Koreatown community. I look forward to multi-cultural celebrations where we celebrate different languages, food and share them with others in our larger kohyang.
What else should we know about you?
I’ve run the Los Angeles Marathon four times with Students Run LA! I also really enjoy reading, knitting and baking. I’m married, and we have a dog named Conley and a cat named Hillary. My husband and I are currently looking to move to Koreatown so that we can be members of the community we serve.