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Forest Park Campus

“IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME!”

Jim O. Triplett, Jr.

Jim Olyn Triplett, Jr. is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Clark Elementary School, Brittany Woods Middle School, and graduated from University City High School, all in St. Louis. He earned his Associate of Arts in Teaching from St. Louis Community College – Forest Park in 2009, and then moved to Kennesaw, Georgia to work on his bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, with an emphasis in Urban Education, from Kennesaw State University (KSU). In 2012, he graduated Magna Cum Laude and was the first African-American male to graduate from the school’s Urban Education program. In Georgia, Jim is certified in Early Childhood Education (Birth – 5th Grade) and Reading Specialist K – 12. In Missouri, he is certified in Early Childhood Education (Birth – 3rd Grade) and Elementary Education (1st – 6th). Prior to graduating from KSU with his teaching degree in Urban Education, Jim interviewed with Teach For America (TFA) and was chosen to return to his hometown of St. Louis as a 2012 corps member, and teach in the St. Louis Public School District (SLPS). After his TFA commitment was over, as a TFA alumnus, Jim remained in the classroom because he was passionate about teaching and realized that this was truly his calling from God.

During his three years in SLPS, Jim taught a single-gender classroom of 24 boys, at Gateway Elementary School. He started as the 3rd grade teacher of those young men, looped to the 4th grade with them, and finally looped again to the 5th grade with the same group of students. He taught his students academics, and life/social skills such as being gentlemen, scholars, and leaders who have integrity. Through donations, Jim was able to provide his students with neckties, teach them how to tie them, and allow them to switch out for a new one whenever they received 80 percent or above on any math or reading assessment given throughout the school year. It was quite normal to see his students wearing neckties at school, or saying “Thank You” to any peers or adults for their kind gestures. Jim enjoyed engaging his students in 1:1 lessons with the use of technology, especially the students’ iPads that were provided by the district.

Jim’s commitment to education, teaching, and learning didn’t stop in the classroom, but was evident in his many years of involvement in the St. Louis Community. Prior to teaching in the classroom, he worked in the retail industry for about 16 years, and a few in the Information Technology department at Logan College of Chiropractic. Jim became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. in 1998, at the University of Missouri – Columbia (Mizzou). He has been active since joining and served in many capacities, including Co-Chapter Advisor of the chapter at Mizzou, and also as the advisor of the St. Louis Alumni Chapter’s Jr. Kappa League Mentoring program. When not teaching his students at Gateway, Jim gave up his spring break to work at the SLPS Spring Break Academy, giving additional instruction to students who struggled with mathematics, to better prepare them for the end-of-the-year MAP Test.

Jim has been recognized for his work in education by media and education organizations in the St. Louis area. During the 2013–2014 academic school year he was recognized as Teacher of the Year for Gateway Elementary, receiving the Pettus Award of Excellence from the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation. Also in 2014, he received an Excellence in Education award from the St. Louis American Foundation, at their annual Salute to Excellence in Education awards gala. He served as a state delegate at the National Education Association Representative Assembly, been a presenter at the Professional Development Schools National Conference, and a presenter at a district-wide Common Core Math professional development workshop for SLPS. In 2015, Jim completed a master’s degree in Educational Technology at Lindenwood University.

Jim also taught 3rd grade at Nickajack Elementary School, a non-urban school in the Cobb County School District of Georgia. It was during his time at Nickajack Elementary that he realized his passion for working with students in urban communities, and entertained the idea of going into urban school administration.

In May 2017, Jim graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a Master of Education in School Leadership. Building on his success as a teacher of a single-gender classroom of young men in St. Louis, Jim realized the importance of supporting the education of this particular student group. As such, he sought to become an administrator in a similar education environment. Five short days after his graduation from Harvard, Jim relocated to Houston, Texas for his first administration position.

Currently, he serves as a middle school assistant principal at KIPP Polaris Academy for Boys. Polaris is KIPP’s only single-gender school for boys, and serves African-American and Hispanic young men in northeast Houston. In his role, Jim supports teachers in the school’s mission to equip students with the academic skills, social competencies, and character traits necessary to navigate life challenges, and attend and complete the college of their choice. Recently, Jim was appointed by the dean of the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University, to serve on the review committee for its Inaugural Alumni Hall of Fame.

In the future, Jim plans to return to his hometown of St. Louis to pursue a doctorate degree in education, and help educate the area’s students as a college professor or school leader. In the meantime, in regards to his own life and the life of the students he serves, Jim continues to live by a motto that his mother kept posted on the refrigerator of their home in University City, Mo when she was alive: “IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME!”