St. Louis American: Tell us about your current position in education, its responsibilities and challenges and how you are able to make a difference.
Tanesia L. Simmons: I am currently a school leader at KIPP St. Louis High School. I am responsible for Instructional Leadership as well and supporting School Culture and School Operations. I am able to make a difference by leveraging the academic resources that KIPP provides with local connections to ensure that we are able to offer world-class curriculum and extracurricular activities to the students that we serve.
St. Louis American: Although educators often work alone, education is a team sport. Tell us about your current team, how you fit into it, and who helps to support your work.
Tanesia L. Simmons: I am lucky enough to work alongside a group of talented and committed educators every day. KIPP St. Louis High School was founded in 2017 by me and my co-school leader, Nicole Niewald. We, along with two assistant school leaders, Tambra Pendleton and Hayley Chartier, and three deans, Hurlie Cozart, Miriam Alejandro, and Jeffrey Miller, spend our day making sure that our teachers receive the support they need to effectively educate our scholars, and that our scholars feel safe and supported while in our building.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any previous positions you have held, in education or any other field, that contributed to your development as an educator and helped prepare you for your current role.
Tanesia L. Simmons: Before returning home to St. Louis, I was a member of the founding team at a charter school in Chicago. During my time there, I served in roles of founding dean of Operations, AP U.S. History teacher, assistant principal, and varsity cheerleading coach. Working in various within a school have given me the ability to approach school leadership from many different perspectives. I know, and have felt, the impact that leadership decisions have on those who don't often get to weigh in. Having this array of experience has helped guide me to always keep students first in my current role.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any mentors crucial to your development as an educator.
Tanesia L. Simmons: My friend, fellow St. Louis native, principal of the school where I started my career in education, Kimberly Neal, has been crucial to development as a leader. She pushed me to grow by stepping outside of my comfort zone, required me to learn every aspect of school leadership (even when it had nothing to do with my actual role), forced me to reflect on my missteps, and encouraged me to be strategic about my career decisions.
St. Louis American: Tell us about your own educational journey as a student.
Tanesia L. Simmons: I am a proud product of the SLPS Magnet Program, which I participated in K-12. I attended Euclid Montessori Elementary School, Enright Classical Junior Academy, and Soldan International Studies High School. Though classified as a gifted student, the idea of going to college wasn't presented to me until my senior year of high school. I attended Harris-Stowe State University for one year, before deciding to pursue earning my cosmetology license. After becoming licensed, I continued my education on a part-time basis, while working full-time. I ultimately earned a B.A. from DePaul University and a M.Ed. from the University of Houston.
St. Louis American: Tell us about your future goals in education.
Tanesia L. Simmons: In the future, I would like to continue creating educational opportunities for all students in St. Louis. While my school currently focuses on college preparation, I've found that there is a lack of career exposure available to students in St. Louis. I'd love to play a part in bringing a program of this sort, which is very common in major cities, to St. Louis. Personally, I am considering working toward earning a doctorate in Education.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any relevant personal information you would like to share with the community – your family, friends, home church, passions.
Tanesia L. Simmons: Even though I haven't worked in the beauty industry for over 10 years, I have a truly creative spirit. When I am not at KHS, I let my creative juices flow by occasionally performing hair services and making custom party favors treats.
St. Louis American: Feel free to add anything else you would like to share with the community about education or yourself.
Tanesia L. Simmons: I would not be where I am without the support of my family. This includes my grandmother who wanted her children and grandchildren to secure the education that was elusive to her, my mother who raised four children alone while simultaneously pursing her own education, my husband who gives me the space to follow my dreams, and my friends who continue to encourage and inspire me today.