Meet Atlanta Families Award winner Celeste McNeil

KIPPCeleste McNeil, a fifth grade teacher at KIPP STRIVE Academy, was named today as an Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE) winner for the 2014 school year. McNeil is one of six APS educators who will receive $7,500 for innovative classroom projects, professional development and a personal stipend. Ms. McNeil will use the award to fund Kindle tablets to improve the quality and rigor of reading material available to students.

“Students need to be reading relentlessly, and it is my mission to ensure that they learn to love it, choose to do it, and feel confident in their ability to do it well,” said Ms. McNeil. Highlights from Ms. McNeil’s teaching career include implementing and orchestrating an annual poetry slam competition, creating a real world reading challenge to connect students with members of the greater learning community, and engaging in the art of reading and writing with her students every day.

Ms. McNeil is a graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina where she majored in English. She began her career in education seven years ago when she joined the mission for educational equity with Teach For America in 2007. She taught language arts for three years at Eaton Johnson Middle School in Henderson, North Carolina. During that time she also served as the Content Learning Community co-leader for the region’s middle school ELA teachers and was nominated for the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award.
The Carolinas are an important part of her education career, but Ms. McNeil felt her hometown of Atlanta calling her back. She joined KIPP STRIVE Academy four years ago as the founding reading teacher on the sixth grade team.

“We have not had new books in our classroom libraries in the four years that I have been at my school, but not for lack of want,” she said. Because KIPP STRIVE does not have a central library, students borrow books from a collection in the reading teachers’ classrooms. The books are tattered and show the natural signs of wear and tear from passing through hundreds of hands.

For her Atlanta Families’ Awards project Ms. McNeil will invest in a class set of Kindle tablets to help students advance their reading achievement.

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