Summer Breeze coordinator wears many hats in the district

Vonda Pipkin, a campus coordinator at Billy Earl Dade Middle School, found her inspiration to work with children and help them grow and develop when she founded a top childcare center in Germany, where she lived with her military family. 

Once she returned to the United States, she began working as a substitute teacher and felt that it was a good career to pursue, where she could still be present for her two sons. 

“I felt my purpose in life had been revealed,” Pipkin said. She already had a degree in business management and decided to pursue her teacher certification.

“I’ve always created a classroom where students felt warm, welcomed and were in a space that was inviting,” Pipkin said. She admitted facing challenges in her new role but said that she embraced every moment of it. Pipkin has described her 20-year career at Dallas ISD as a calling and a ministry that has been a phenomenal experience. 

“I love what I get to do,” Pipkin said. “My calling has been predominantly in playing a role in transforming schools and climate and culture,” she said.

At Dade Middle School, Pipkin played different roles, including Professional Learning Community (PLC) facilitator, math teacher, special education teacher, math department chair, among other things. She first came to Dade when it transitioned to an ACE campus. 

One of the hats that Pipkin has worn at Dade was serving as the site coordinator for Summer Breeze this summer break. 

“It was a breeze even though it was work for me,” she said. “It was an amazing time, and I enjoyed being part of a program that provided a safe, nurturing environment where students could find joy.” 

Some of her responsibilities included hiring teachers, monitoring the program, and implementing the district’s curriculum for the program. She said that approximately 80 students consistently showed up for the program that had themes every week and incentives for students.

Besides focusing on academics, such as reading and math, students enjoyed fun and safe activities like yoga, water play, ice cream making, crafts, and many others. Word about Summer Breeze at Dade got around, and students began to bring along their friends, Pipkin said. 

In the fall, Pipkin will be transitioning to Lincoln High School and Humanities/Communications Magnet, but says her 10 years at Dade have been life changing. She credits the team for transforming a struggling school by reinstating effective systems and engaging parents.

“I was excited to have been part of amazing things such as student achievement and climate and culture, as well as the wonderful staff and community,” Pipkin said. “It was phenomenal, the things we’ve been able to do at Dade, and I’m so excited to have had an opportunity to be part of that.”

She credits leaders such as her former principals Tracie Washington and Rockell Stewart for helping her grow as an educator and providing mentorship and opportunities for leadership. 

Even when COVID hit, Pipkin said they were able to maintain a positive climate and culture and found ways that were intentional in keeping team members encouraged and motivated, as well as providing parents with the support that they needed.   

When she first began her journey as a teacher, she noticed that many of her students needed resources and were unable to focus on their learning because they lacked basic necessities. She began partnering with organizations that could provide haircuts, personal hygiene items, uniforms, mental health resources such as counseling, and other services. She said she found fulfillment in helping students with challenges by prioritizing their needs in the classroom. Pipkin said her calling continues, leading her to new challenges.

“I love our South Dallas schools and I have spent my career serving families and students in the southern sector. I’m happy to do so because I see the impact as I see my former students working in the community and see them pursue careers and become productive citizens,” Pipkin said. 

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