Trinity graduate Philonda Johnson ’05, founding principal of the KIPP DC: Discover Academy, will be the featured speaker at Cap and Gown Convocation on Saturday, September 26, at 5:00 pm in the Trinity Center. She will be presented with the Trinity Washington Woman of Genius Award. Johnson is the youngest person to serve as a principal of a KIPP school. The KIPP DC: Discover Academy in Ward 8 in Southeast Washington, D.C., is a college-preparatory early childhood school serving 100 pre-kindergarten students; the school will grow to capacity to serve 280 students in grades pre-school through kindergarten.
As the founding principal and instructional leader of KIPP DC: Discover Academy, Johnson recruited and trained 13 founding faculty and staff members and opened the school in July 2009. Johnson brings to her role as principal strong instructional design and delivery experience, excellent team-building skills, and a deep knowledge of child development and age-appropriate early childhood education strategies.
To prepare to be a principal, Johnson was selected to be a Fisher Fellow and participated in the year-long KIPP Foundation-KIPP School Leadership program, which included intensive coursework, residencies at KIPP schools, and individualized coaching from KIPP staff. Prior to her fellowship, Johnson served as the Saturday school coordinator at the KIPP DC: Leap Academy, where she was also the founding lead pre-kindergarten math teacher. KIPP DC is a network of high-performing, college-preparatory charter schools in Washington, D.C., which serve the city’s under-resourced communities (KIPP: Knowledge is Power Program).
Johnson graduated magna cum laude from Trinity in 2005; she majored in psychology with a focus in forensic psychology and she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. After she graduated from Trinity, Johnson was selected to become a member of the Teach for America corps, and she was a pre-kindergarten teacher at the Clemente Martinez Elementary School in Houston, Texas. She then served as the assistant site coordinator of the 21st century after-school program for the Houston Independent School District.
As a student at Trinity, Johnson was a resident hall assistant and spent a summer working full-time as a literacy instructor and tutor for the Heads Up literacy program. During her years at Trinity, she was a victim advocate for the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and was a hotline volunteer and shelter advocate for My Sister’s Place, which serves victims of domestic violence.