Preparing to Lead - From Associate Teacher to Principal in Residence - KIPP Nashville

Preparing to Lead – From Associate Teacher to Principal in Residence

Nashville native, Alphonzo Bradford, knew he wanted to have a career in education, he just wasn’t sure what it would look like.

Bradford says, “I went to Tennessee State University, majored in English and initially wanted to be a high school English teacher, but I took a different turn and ended up here at KIPP Kirkpatrick Elementary School.”

That was six years ago and Bradford says he’s never looked back.

“I want to do this work, because I am like a lot of the students at KIPP Kirkpatrick,” says Bradford. “I grew up like them and come from the same community as them.”

Bradford started his career as an Associate Teacher in Kindergarten, learning what it meant to be a teacher, manage a classroom and hold high expectations for his students.

Over the years, Bradford says he continued to build upon everything he learned, eventually becoming a first grade Lead Teacher, and then stepping into growth opportunities leading content and grade teams. 

“Along the way I learned what it meant to not just be an educator, but also a leader, how you impact students and adults,” says Bradford, who currently works as an Assistant Principal.

Through the encouragement of his coaches and mentors, Bradford says he decided to take the next leadership step and apply for KIPP Nashville’s Principal in Residence program.

“There were so many people who believed in me, which empowered me to apply,” explains Bradford. “They saw things in me that I sometimes didn’t see in myself.”

The Principal in Residence (PIR)  program  is a one or two-year residency for aspiring principals to gain invaluable hands-on experience and professional development, while being embedded at a KIPP Nashville school as a member of the leadership team. This opportunity provides an on ramp for our leaders to either become a successor at one of our schools, or a founding principal. 

As a part of the program, Bradford works with his mentor principal, Tiffany Potter, receives additional 1:1 coaching geared toward his areas of growth and is part of a cohort of other peers going through the PIR program.

“I am definitely a fundamentally different leader than I was six months ago,” says Bradford. “The PIR program has helped me sharpen what my focus is, and it has sharpened my ability to lead people in a way that’s human, in a way that I’m leading people based on the data,” says Bradford. “What I focus on now is very different from what I was focused on six months ago.”

One of the critical components of the PIR program is providing daily opportunities for participants to practice the skills and competencies required to lead high-performing schools.

“It’s a powerful tool,” says Bradford. “I think that the PIR program is a continuation of what KIPP Nashville has built. It is a way for teachers who are already at their schools to someday work their way up to being a principal. It allows for people to feel invested in and allows people to be heard

Bradford, who sees himself leading a school as a principal one day, says his ultimate goal behind being a part of the PIR program is to make an even larger impact among students and the community. 

“This makes me want to continue doing this work and do it on a larger scale where I can impact not only the students I teach, but all the students in the KIPP Kirkpatrick community.”

Watch Mr. Bradford’s journey on YouTube!