LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kelly Willinger

Position: Education Director, Grades 2 + 3
School: Promise Academy I
School District: Harlem Children's Zone
City, State: New York, NY

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Comments (33)

Tom Rodal Posted over a year ago

Kelly's Life Changing example shows her ability to calmly think on her feet during challenging situations. Bringing about many positive outcomes and accomplishments to those she interacts with is reason to consider Kelly as LIFECHANGER OF THE YEAR.

Monica Lloyd Posted over a year ago

Kelly has always been a breath of fresh air amidst sometimes constant chaos. She maintains a positive attitude despite any difficulty, and I've never seen her unwilling or unmotivated to be her best and to make our system the best that it can be. It takes an exceptional person to not only be a bright light to students, but to her fellow staff members, and to have that light reach the staff system-wide. Kelly's impact is not just limited to the staff in her own school, but to all of us across all schools in our network in some way. I appreciate how Kelly makes the extra effort to support all of us, and without her, this system wouldn't have the potential and promise that it currently does.

Barbara Posted over a year ago

What a great recognition for Kelly who kept her passion alive for the need for a school library. So important for kids who may not have access to books and the learning they provide

Kelly Willinger Posted over a year ago

Colleagues, Friends, Family & Community Members -- Thank you so much for the beautiful messages that you have left on the profile page. When I have a difficult day, I will undoubtedly be flipping to this forum to reread your words of encouragement and support. I am utterly amazed by the number of individuals who are taking this important literacy work so seriously and reading your comments has taken me back through the entire story of how the library at Promise Academy came to be. Of course, this is just the beginning, and if we continue to work together we will surely change the lives of our students, one reader at a time! With your support, I am hoping that we can win the grand prize and receive the funding for upcoming literacy initiatives. Already my wheels are turning and I'd love to expand the library to include K-2, publish student writing into real books, and create mini libraries to send home with our families. Just a few ideas as we head into the new year.... Together, we will succeed! Kelly

Kim Rodal Posted over a year ago

Since an early age Kelly has been involved in libraries as she would often join me at my workplace. She has always been very passionate about reading. She demonstrated this by creating a beautiful library for her students at HCZ. Kelly is an enthusiastic motivational leader at her school and her positive attitude is contagious. It is a great honor for Kelly to be nominated for this special award.

Danielle Posted over a year ago

Kelly W is so amazing and totally deserves this recognition!

Priscilla Hardial Posted over a year ago

I have known Kelly for a number of years and can genuinely say that her energy and passion is a great thing to admire! I enjoy working along with her as an Ed. Director and love her enthusiasm for changing the reading culture in our school. From the read a thon to the delivering books to each classroom...she deserves this award!

Jeremy Posted over a year ago

I am Kelly's husband and I have personally witnessed the immense sacrifices she makes, and commitment she demonstrates, for the school and her students every day. She is a wonderful, dedicated leader who knows how to get the job done- and how to motivate others to ensure success. Kelly is passionate and personable and will always take the extra steps at work to make sure each student feels acknowledged and appreciated. I know for a fact that the school is better having her on the team- the value she brings to the organization as a whole is immeasurable and will last for generations. There is not a better, nor more worthy nominee than Kelly Willinger.

Deirdre S Posted over a year ago

Kelly is well deserving of the Life Changer award! Her passion for literacy is contagious. She has transformed the HCZ community through reading. Students now have a love of reading because of the excitement she brings to the school. She created a library so that students have a space to access reading a variety of materials. She brings a positivity and joy to the school that can't be matched.

Gwen Myers Posted over a year ago

Kelly is an amazing educator. Passionate about her work and all that she does. If this prize enables her to do more of what she’s already doing give it to her! She will make us all proud.

Jay Posted over a year ago

Kelly is passionate about providing her students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to utilize the tools necessary to prepare them for future educational opportunities. Now it’s time for us to try and help Kelly with her quest. Congratulations Kelly and thank you for providing your students with an environment to grow and become successful and accomplished adults.

Kat Flaherty Posted over a year ago

Three years ago, our school classroom libraries had minimal books and no organization. Students read inauthentic packets of texts and never carried around books. We never tracked what they read because well, they weren’t reading real books. Fast forward 3years later and our classroom libraries each have well over 1,000 books. Our students so far this year have already surpassed the amount of books they read the entire last year- we are up to 27,000! This is solely because of Kelly- her encouragement, her book fairies trips, her opening of our new school library, free book bins for families, free book fairs for students,and competitions around reading goals. As a math teacher, I was mostly a bystander in this process until Kelly’s passion for reading and literacy in our community convinced me to realize that this was something we needed EVERYONE to get on board with. Not only has Kelly changed lives she has changed our entire community! Kids walk around with books now and you can overhead them talking about their favorite book. Kelly most definitely deserves this award!!!!

Katherine Aguero Posted over a year ago

I could not imagine a more deserving person for this award than Kelly Willinger. As a colleague and friend, Kelly has been an amazing source of inspiration for building a love of reading at our schools. Not only has she created a lending library at Promise Academy I, but she constantly creates opportunities to get books into the hands of kids. To top it off, her joy and positive attitude are immensely contagious! She is changing students’ lives and inspiring others to join in her mission!

Colleen McKeown Posted over a year ago

She is an extraordinary person to work with! She is the most energetic person I have worked with and it call comes from her love for teaching and literacy. In the four months I have worked with her, we have collaborated as music teacher and educational director to use music to make students want to read. She is always positive, even with the though situations and is always willing to help you with whatever problem you may have.

Alison Kelly Posted over a year ago

Kelly is so passionate about literacy and the children of HCZ! In the two years that I've worked with her, I've seen her come up with creative approaches to get engaging texts into the hands of all students. She has created a culture of reading that is palpable the second you walk into her school. She is also a wonderful leader. In her work with teachers, her positive attitude is contagious. She is thoughtful in her approach to everything and is always willing to lend a hand to problem solve solutions that will work for your classroom and your students.

J. Albano Posted over a year ago

Kelly is an amazing leader at our school and has made a huge impact on our students. Her dedication to a creating a culture of reading at our school has changed the way our students view independent reading. She has genuinely fostered a love for reading across the student body. With the staff, Kelly always makes herself available to brainstorm ideas about literacy content or student concerns. She approaches each situation with a positive attitude and a solution-oriented mindset. She is truly an asset to both our students and our staff.

Flora Jedda Posted over a year ago

I have never worked with someone as passionate about, and dedicated to literacy as Kelly. Almost every month she organizes teachers from Harlem Children's Zone to go to the Book Fairies. Kelly was my literacy coach last year when I taught at HCZ, and I was humbled by her ability to always find time to listen to all students. She would go beyond her job duties to make sure students had access to books that they actually wanted to read. Sometimes, she would even go classroom to classroom searching for the next Harry Potter book in the series (or really any book) that a student needed to read. In making sure to connect students with books they're excited about, Kelly makes every student feel recognized, respected, and excited about reading. Not only does she go out of her way for students, she does the same for teachers in making sure that they have access to the materials, and information they need to succeed. Additionally, the school did not have a library last year, and she went above and beyond to make it a possibility this year. The work Kelly does deserves to be recognized and rewarded. Thank you for everything you do Kelly!

Shanice Posted over a year ago

Kelly is an incredible literary leader and educational director at Promise Academy .She has worked so hard to make sure that the students at our school love reading and have the privilege to read variety of books at home and school.Kelly has introduced our school to a wonderful reading problem, created and welcome students to our school library , introduced and accompanied staff members to book fairies in order to grow our libraries and gifts every student in our school with books of their choice for Christmas . Kelly is so supportive and kind .Her hardwork and drive will continue to change the lives of our students .Kelly is the definition of a life changer!

Jeffrey Samulson Posted over a year ago

Kelly is an outstanding, dedicated and hard working individual who goes above and beyond each and every day for the students of Harlem HCZ. In addition, her commitment to her colleagues and mentees is second to none. Kelly is patient, helpful, and wonderfully hands-on. She has transformed not only the culture of the school, but the lives of countless children and families. Kelly is a hero; while that word gets tossed around a lot, there is no one who personifies it more by her expertise and loyalty than this wonderful nominee.

Elizabeth Posted over a year ago

Kelly consistently goes above and beyond to improve literacy. She is a life long learner and she applies what she learns to the students and teachers around her. She is passionate about what she does and it is contagious. She single handedly started a lending library, so that students would have access to engaging literature. She spent hours creating an environment that would be engaging and allow for student input. She is always funding bookclubs and talking about interesting reads.

Joseph Cordero Posted over a year ago

Kelly has single handedly change the culture of reading in our school. Her love and enthusiasm has had an infectious impact on our entire student and staff! I wholeheartedly believe that such an honor should be bestowed on such a wonderful person. Dr. Joseph Cordero, principal

Adriana DeVito Posted over a year ago

Kelly is my educational coach at Promise academy. This is my first year teaching and it hasn’t been easy but Kelly’s energy and positive attitude has always kept me going. She has made me more excited to come to work and after venting to her about a problem or life in general she always seems to know what to say to make me feel better. Her spirit is so special and her passion for reading is admirable. She is such a great teacher, mentor, leader, and person!!! She deserves this!!

Jennifer Chavanne Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Willinger has welcomed me with arms since day 1 at HCZ. She has always put forth a 'kids first motto.' Her vibrant and exuberant personality is something that is truly unforgettable. I'll never forget how I was struggling to find books to support the emergent readers within my classroom and she referred me to book fairies. I took my first adventure there about two months ago and it was truly life changing;I was able to get a ton of books for my students! Over the past week, she led the way to 'Seasons Readings' by providing every student in K-2 with a book for the holidays. Kelly is truly one of a kind and a true asset to HCZ!!!!

Lianna Cuccia Posted over a year ago

Since I started working for Promise Academy, Kelly has been such a positive person to be around. She is constantly smiling and excited about learning, especially reading. She puts into place events such as read-a-thon, creating a school library, AR goals, and great trips for students. She is very visible and students know her as the "go-to" book person if they have any questions about a book or how to get a certain book. She makes trying to reach these crazy goals fun by making it almost like a game, and students keep outperforming themselves each benchmark. It is clear how passionate Kelly is about reading and definitely deserves this award!

Stephanie Philips Posted over a year ago

Having Kelly Willinger as a literacy coach during my first year of teaching changed not only my life, but my students' lives. She was a constant source of positivity, encouragement, and support in times I felt most vulnerable as an educator. Her passion for literacy education is contagious and inspiring. Thanks to Kelly, my students are eager to book shop for high-interest and engaging books in our classroom library. Thank you, Kelly, for being so invested in each and every one of us every single day.

Kathryn Rose Fuller Posted over a year ago

Kelly is a Director at my school. Before she even took that position she was always ready to help me even though she was not on my team. When she did join our team she opened up us to many amazing opportunities to help build my classroom and my own skills. She opened up the program of Book Fairies for my classroom. Through this she has allowed me to build my classroom library and then pushed me further to use the library in the most effective way to for my children. She even extended the offer to other people who she didn't even know after I asked. She doesn't even bat an eye when you are asking her to help. She is an extremely caring person who is really puts the kids first. Through this she is always changing lives, the lives of kids and adults alike!

Len Rodal Posted over a year ago

As the father of Lifechanger Of The Year nominee Kelly Willinger #LCOY, I am humbled by her nomination for this prestigious award. Kelly’s dedication to literacy, enthusiastic desire to help children succeed, and her selfless nature, are traits that I hope the selection committee will recognize. From an early age, Kelly has demonstrated that she is a difference maker in this world, and has always been a positive influence in her community. Best wishes to all the worthy candidates. Regards Len

Ashley Bridgewater Posted over a year ago

I worked with Kelly at Promise Academy 1 where I was a music teacher 2013-2015. Not only was Kelly my supervisor who gave me extraordinary feedback, treating me with kindness and respect, but also a talented educator and leader. She teaches/leads with a genuine and open heart. She is an innovator, passionate about literacy and inspiring young people to read and write. A gem in the organization, Kelly has touched the hearts of many students at HCZ!

Elizabeth O'Driscoll Posted over a year ago

She is someone who leads by example and lifts up all those with whom she works. When Kelly first invited me to go to Book Fairies she paid for my ticket and then continued to fund my trips so that I could ensure my students had hundreds of books to choose from in my classroom.Kelly spent countless Sundays (after working Saturday school) commuting to the Book Fairies warehouse in Long Island to retrieve books for our students. The reading culture at our school has been transformed since Kelly made acquiring thousands of books for our students a priority. Kelly is relentlessly positive, caring and determined when it comes to making the right decisions for kids. She is empathetic to her teachers, she is loving to her students and never once looks for recognition for the free book fairs she has set up, the book bins for families she has positioned around the school and the determination to keep our kids reading and learning about the world. Kelly has been an amazing mentor for me for the past four years-- I can only hope to have the impact on the world that Kelly has made thus far in her work with children at the Harlem Children's Zone.

Amy Zaslansky Posted over a year ago

Kelly is the quintessential literacy leader at Harlem Children's Zone, Promise Academy. She has revolutionized her school's approach toward literacy, energizing both the teachers and students to read and succeed. One major change was Kelly’s attendance at our Community Book Fairs where teachers select thousands of free books to build their libraries. Kelly encouraged all of her teachers to attend the monthly fairs and personally PAID their registration fees. This resulted in robust classroom libraries and their first ever school library. I can't imagine too many teachers that would pay hundreds of dollars a month just to make sure that all of the kids in her school have access to high interest books. Kelly also put a strong focus on reading which the school embraced with open arms. Every year, the students are reading thousands of books and increasing their reading levels. The students now think of themselves as readers and book lovers. In just three months, the kids have read more books than they read all of the 2017-2018 school year. As a result of her tireless literacy efforts, the students went from a 30% state wide passing rate to 70% in just three years. Kelly and her teachers cannot keep up with the new voracious reading habits of the students. Every month we see the Harlem Children's Zone van pull up to our warehouse with Kelly leading the charge. She energizes the teachers with fresh literacy programs and boosts children’s self esteem who were previously reluctant readers. Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy is lucky to have Kelly on their side. Her passion and enthusiasm is contagious and her smile is infectious. Way to go Kelly! You are a LifeChanger in my book!

Linda Posted over a year ago

I've had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful and dynamic young woman on several occasions at The Book Fairies where I'm a Volunteer. Her enthusiasm to help the students in her school is exemplary and her smile and passion is contagious. I'm proud and honored to have met Kelly and I wish her all the best . sincerely Linda

Lisa Rodal Posted over a year ago

Reader and Leader Kelly Willinger has worked with HCZ for 10 years. Kelly truly wants to help the children have a better chance at a bright successful future. She was raised by a librarian and spent endless childhood hours busy in the library. She wants all her children at HCZ to have this same opportunity. The creation of this library was no easy task but Kelly perservered and found ways to say YES when others told her it was not possible. The Book Faries see something special in Kelly and want her to be recognized. Kelly Willinger is a life changer now and will continue to be for her students at HCZ and beyond.

Rebecca Kennedy Lakhani Posted over a year ago

Kelly is an AMAZING literacy champion at her school. The Book Fairies is amazed at how she has created such a magical reading culture at Promise Academy. She put a free book cart near dismissal that needs refilling DAILY. She has students that have read over 600 books IN ONE YEAR. The halls are filled with colorful pictures of books and suggested reading lists. Their new school-wide lending library is beautiful!!! Kelly is making a difference, one reader at a time!!!