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Promise Academy Math Teacher is Changing the Odds for Her Community

Kyler Morris, Promise Academy Math Teacher

Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy Math Teacher Kyler Morris

Growing up in Harlem, Kyler Morris remembered “Guys hanging out at the corner, selling drugs, catcalling women. At one point, I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t want this to be my environment.’”

It was an environment in need of change. For Kyler, that change starts in the classroom. Today, she is transform the odds for her community as a math teacher at Harlem’s Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy schools. 

From Math Tutor To Math Teacher

The first person in her immediate family to graduate college, Kyler started her journey at HCZ as a student advocate in the Promise Academy I afterschool program. Then, she became a math tutor at Promise Academy.

After making an impact as a tutor, Kyler was asked by Promise Academy I Middle School principal Kashif Hameed to become a seventh-grade math teacher at the school. So, Kyler took him up on his offer. It was a good thing she did: in Kyler’s first year, 95 percent of her students passed their New York State exams.

Building Relationships

As important an indicator as test scores is the relationships Kyler builds with her students.  

“That’s the very first thing you do,” the math teacher explains. “If you don’t have a relationship with the students, then you can’t teach.” 

One time, Kyler learned that one of her student’s fathers had died. Kyler let that student know that he wasn’t alone.

“I told him that I, too, had lost my father when she was young,” she recalls. “It was a great connection.”

Those relationships persist even after Kyler students advance to the next grade. Often, students from her previous classes will find their way back to her classroom at lunch or after school to hang out with her. 

“We still have that relationship,” she says. “If you can’t build a relationship, you’ll lose a child fast.”

Making Math Fun

For Kyler, being a great math teacher is also about proving how fun math can be. 

“Math is not boring,” she insists.

Her approach includes: gamifying the subject, combining math with movement, and empowering her students not only to learn, but also to teach one another.

“I have to keep telling people: math is actually fun,” she laughs.

Inside the classroom, Kyler feels that she has found her calling — and a way to positively impact her community.

“Everyone always says that cliché, ‘It takes a village to save a child,’” she says. “But I honestly feel it takes that one person to make a difference in a child’s life.”


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