Regional Staff

Marisa Tersy

Marisa Tersy, Director of Equity and Inclusion at KIPP DC

Director of Equity and Inclusion, KIPP DC Public Schools

I started at KIPP DC as a Pre-K4 teacher. Of all the wonderful memories during this time, there’s one that sticks out to me: one morning, before lessons started, my students wanted to play a game to see if I could guess who was who. Excitedly they came up behind me, covered my eyes, and gave me clues about themselves to see if I could guess the student.

Of course, the sound of their voice was a clear giveaway. I could immediately tell which student was which. But there was such beauty in this moment. My students were utterly gleeful as they challenged me, and through their clues, I learned a few new facts. At its core, a seemingly silly game was really about identity. About how my students see themselves, and how they want to be seen, recognized, and affirmed for who they are.

This is the work I do in my current role as the Director of Equity and Inclusion at KIPP DC. Across the KIPP network, we have a bold mission to create identity-affirming schools where each student can show up as their full self.

Much of my work is creating systems that make that bold mission possible. I support school leaders in thinking about equity priorities and how they’ll achieve them. I manage our region’s equity fellows, who take on impactful DEI projects like creating a Gender and Sexuality Alliance or supporting families that have students with disabilities. And I spend a lot of time training and coaching colleagues, so that across our staff we can build a culture of empathy, accountability, and trust.

Many “a-ha” moments throughout my life have led me to this work. Like when I took a critical race theory class in college that opened my eyes to the harsh realities of systematized racism. When, halfway through my master’s degree studies, I realized I could have the most impact by starting my career in the classroom. Or when I think back to my own K-12 experience. It was a time when I genuinely felt affirmed, and I wish for KIPP students to have the same recognition, love, and safeness I did.

At the end of the day, my vision is for students to experience really deep joy in our schools. I want them to be critical thinkers who can connect their learnings to the world around them. I want them to feel free, liberated, and safe to be their full selves. I hope that the work that we do plays a part in making that possible.

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