Keisha Lavia #ASpotlight Interview

Welcome to Keisha Lavia, our new Associate Kindergarten Teacher! We are so fortunate to have her on our team. Read below to learn more about Ms. Lavia's professional trajectory, her passion for teaching kindergarteners, her interest in the subject of social studies, and more.
We are thrilled that you will be joining our Kindergarten Team this year! Can you tell me a bit about your professional background and what inspired you to go into teaching?
I started teaching right after A Levels. I went to school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where they use the British educational model, which has students go from primary to high/secondary school to A-Levels, and then on to university. I was asked to help at my former high school because they needed a social studies teacher. I found that I really loved it and worked there for over two years.

I migrated to the United States after that and worked as a nanny for many years. I felt that getting an educational background on child development and education would better me as a child-care provider, so I enrolled for an undergraduate degree at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), where I received my associate degree in early childhood education. From there, I went on to Lehman College and continued my undergraduate studies; I obtained a BA in Sociology with a minor in early childhood education. About one year ago, I decided to return to school to pursue a master’s in childhood education. I am currently enrolled at The City College of New York, working towards that degree.

I have been doing substitute teaching for the past year and have worked with several independent schools throughout the city. This really opened up the doors for me to learn different strategies of teaching. I learned different teaching styles by observing and working alongside a wide variety of teachers.

What appealed to you about teaching at Allen-Stevenson?
I started as a substitute teacher at Allen-Stevenson. After I came in a few times, Head of Lower School, Stephen Warner, asked me if I had any interest in full-time teaching, and it did not take me long to say “yes.” From the moment I set foot in the School, I felt at ease and comfortable. When I entered the building for my first substitute teaching assignment, Receptionist René Rivera was at the Front Desk. He was so kind when he introduced himself. Then, Assistant Head of the Lower School for Grades One and Two, Jennifer Zimmermann, welcomed me and led me upstairs to meet Kindergarten Teacher Jesse Montero, who I will be teaching with this school year. I just felt so comfortable here. I could sense this powerful community from the second I walked in the door. As I transition into full-time teaching at Allen-Stevenson, Lower School Administrative Coordinator and Specialist Grace Sur has been very instrumental in helping me get situated and complete daily tasks.

Why do you enjoy teaching kindergarteners?
For one of my substitute teaching assignments, I went to a school where I was working with kindergarteners, and I realized at that moment that this was the age I wanted to teach. Kindergarten is the threshold into formal education, and it is such an important year for students. The children are building skills that they will carry with them throughout their educational journey. It is satisfying for me to see them begin to develop into themselves and grow over the year. Watching them grow is incredible – it is just an amazing time developmentally.

Do you have a particular lesson you like to teach?
I love teaching social studies because this is how students relate to their community and society and the world around them. This curriculum helps them become more thoughtful individuals and more responsible citizens. I think that is key. We have to teach these lessons early so they can develop and grow and be successful in all things later in life. Social studies open our boys up to be more thoughtful and compassionate people. These lessons teach them empathy … and we all need that in this world.

In teaching my lessons, I try to get a lot of feedback from my children. I put out a question and ask them what they know about it. I get them involved and participating and encourage them to research on their own - maybe ask mommy or daddy when they get home and report back on their findings the next day. I do not like to feed students information in the form of lectures only because I want them to take ownership of their learning and seek information. When I was going to school as a child, I was fed information, and I don’t think that it is the best way to help students learn and develop on their own. I want them to enjoy learning and have fun.

Can you share a hobby or interest of yours?
I love the outdoors. I always have to find some time to be outside every day. I live in Harlem and love to go running at Marcus Garvey Park in the mornings. You can often find me outside running, hiking, and biking. These activities help to clear my head and create inner peace for me.

Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.