Daisy Salazar-Garza is the Founding School Leader of KIPP Poder Public School, an elementary school educating students from TK through 8th grade,* in the Montebello Unified School District. She has been working with KIPP for the past 11 years and has been in education for a total of 13 years. Her passion for education comes from being a first-generation college graduate (go Bruins!) and a proud daughter of two Mexican immigrant parents from Jerez, Zacatecas. Born and raised in Los Angeles County, Mrs. Salazar-Garza has also experienced firsthand the inequities in the public education system and the impact this has on students, families, and communities.
Before joining the KIPP family, Mrs. Salazar-Garza’s career took her to South Philadelphia where she was working as a bilingual education teacher. In her efforts to help transform public education, “I felt like I was working alone and my students weren’t getting a quality education from year-to-year.” This feeling moved Mrs. Salazar-Garza to attend a KIPP Open House for Teachers where she had the opportunity to observe, ask questions, talk to team members, and connect with students and families. “Overall, the KIPP school felt like an environment that was great for kids — it was a nurturing environment both for students and staff. And I was left really inspired,” said Mrs. Salazar-Garza.
“I’ve always been dedicated to public education! And I knew that at KIPP, I could be a part of a team that was working together to support our students. Our students would receive an excellent education no matter in what class or grade they were in, because all the adults in the building were working together to ensure that all students were thriving," she explained. “I also realized then that charter schools are public schools — a place where you can innovate and a place where people are put first. And that’s why I applied to KIPP.” Mrs. Salazar-Garza served as a teacher, dean, and school leader at KIPP Infinity Elementary where she had the honor of working with families in Harlem, before making her move back home to Southern California.
Through the KIPP SoCal School Leader Fellow Program, Mrs. Salazar-Garza had a valuable residency at KIPP Comienza Upper School where she had more on-the-ground experience of supporting a school, working alongside teachers, students and families, and gaining professional development. This opportunity showed her that “with the right support and development, anything is possible in a school community!” She added, “our families here and across the country are really beautiful people who advocate for themselves and others in great ways. I love our KIPPsters, and to see our team members do amazing things everyday is inspiring. I appreciated that support with our KIPP Comienza team who was always willing to go the extra mile for our students. This speaks to the culture at KIPP SoCal and the continuity within our network schools. That was a powerful thing for me to experience.”
Her dedication to KIPP comes from her deep belief in our vision and mission to work closely with our families and communities to build joyful and excellent schools that create limitless opportunities for students. The KIPP SoCal mission and advocating for people is something that comes naturally to Mrs. Salazar-Garza; at a young age, she served in her elementary school's student government to ensure a strong educational foundation that empowered students. “I was a struggling student, I didn’t learn to read till I was in 2nd grade and had a hard time at school,” she disclosed. “I know what it feels like to not catch up very quickly and feel like school wasn’t for me. But, having a 2nd grade teacher that cared, pushed for my development, and met my needs is something that has always stuck with me — even as an adult,” said Mrs. Salazar-Garza.
“I empathize with students and try to help them.” In fact, a colleague at KIPP Comienza said, “Mrs. Salazar-Garza never gives up on kids and I admire that.” Certainly, “I always try to figure out how to meet our students’ needs and I think that comes from my experience,” she added. “I want to continue ensuring that all students feel that they can learn and grow, that they don’t internalize those messages of frustration or difficulty into who they are.”
Leading a public school that provides a meaningful, equitable, and empowering education to all students is what she wishes to do. She is excited for KIPP Poder Public School to reflect and honor the beauty, resilience, and complexity of our students, families, and communities’ identities.
“I‘m thinking about the importance of putting our students’ identities and the Montebello community at the forefront of our instruction and how we care for and support each student,” stated Mrs. Salazar-Garza. “In our teaching, we need to highlight the lived experiences of our kids because what happens in our communities is so powerful,” she mentioned. “We need to do more and support our students to change the world in a revolutionary way. And, what I love about the Montebello Unified School District, is that they are one of the first districts to adopt Ethnic Studies in California. We will have a dedicated space to learn about our history, identity, diversity, justice, and action!” As an Angeleno, it’s important for Mrs. Salazar-Garza to lead a neighborhood school that works hand-in-hand with the community and guarantees that students will have the most possibilities and opportunities to excel in life. “Every family should have that choice.”
At KIPP Poder, we know that students have so much power within themselves and our school will provide a nurturing environment that helps them unleash that impact throughout the community and world.
Check out Mrs. Salazar-Garza on the "Melissa and Lori Love Literacy" podcast series where she shared that there are ways to have a rigorous curriculum that also affirms students' identities; learn more about her anti-bias and anti-racist approach to implementing the Wit & Wisdom ELA curriculum.
*A grade level will be added each year until we are fully grown with TK-8th grade.