A Brilla Interview: Ms. Kiara Chavez

Ms. Kiara Chavez is a teacher and Character Lead at Brilla Veritas who was recently honored by her peers as the Employee of the Month.

Brilla Veritas principal, Ms. Castillo, describes Ms. Chavez as,


“extremely dedicated to the success of every single Brilla scholar through her leadership of Character Initiatives at the school. She is eager to grow and learn from every staff member and scholar. Ms. Chavez exemplifies a growth mindset and is a flexible problem solver. She knows it takes a village to educate our children and she ensures that this village is working collaboratively for the success of all.”

Originally from the Bronx, Ms. Chavez chose to work in her home neighborhood of Mott Haven. She began her career at Brilla in the spring of 2018 as a kindergarten teacher, and now serves in the important role of Bridge Teacher.

The Bridge program is offered to kindergarten families who believe their child would benefit from an additional year of development in certain subjects before passing on to 1st grade. As such, Bridge teachers have the additional challenge of creating more individualized curriculums for students. The curriculum includes many of Brilla’s core program elements– such as small groups and blended learning – but the books used in Bridge classes are different as students need more support to advance to a grade level reading standard.

Ms. Chavez was not daunted by this additional challenge, but rather asked to be considered for the role of Bridge Teacher because she was so invested in the students she had already been working with for half a year. She is proud of the progress she has seen in her scholars. For example, many of them were very shy and did not participate in class when she first met them, but now class participation is very high thanks to their increased confidence.

Ms. Chavez discovered Brilla through Teach for America (TFA) after graduating from college in December 2017. She was captivated by Brilla’s mission to provide holistic education to children, especially character formation. As a baseline for character formation, Brilla promotes four cardinal virtues: Wisdom, Justice, Self-Control, and Courage. When asked which is the most important virtue for scholars to learn first, Ms. Chavez described Wisdom. To be ‘wise’ means to make thoughtful choices, which allows scholars to demonstrate other virtues at critical moments.

“Brilla is more than just a school within the educational system,” Ms. Chavez said, “it is a mechanism for change because we are looking at every part of the child.” Educating the entire person goes beyond academic metrics, it means forming relationships with scholars and their families—something Brilla has prioritized since the beginning. For example, Brilla holds Parent University sessions, where parents are given an opportunity to learn about different subjects and understand the content being presented to their children.

Ms. Chavez’s Inspirational Quote(s)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

“Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Ms. Chavez has committed to teach at Brilla for two years through TFA. However, Ms. Chavez said that her love for Brilla has grown so much that she will definitely stay for more than two years.

In the future, Mr. Chavez would like to attend Columbia Law to study to become an education/immigration lawyer. Over the longer-term, she has dreams of founding a school in Puerto Rico.

Ms. Chavez’s Fun Fact

Ms. Chavez loves to dance, she said, “If there is anything artistic about me, it’s dance… because I can’t draw.” While Ms. Chavez has tried out different types of modern dance, she finds that she is a natural at Bachata, a type of dance from the Dominican Republic, which she enjoys the most.

Ms. Chavez’s Shout-Out

Ms. Chavez would like to make a special shout out to Mrs. Castillo because she believed in her from the very beginning. Mrs. Castillo is an outstanding role model because she is not only insightful and experienced, she inspires staff to uphold Brilla’s vision and mission for scholars. “Way to go Mrs. Castillo… we want to be like you!”

Brilla Veritas’ Assistant Principal, Mrs. O’Brien, and Principal, Mrs. Castillo, hard at work.

About the Author: Isabel González

Isabel is the Special Projects Manager for Brilla Schools Network in the South Bronx. She assists the Executive Director in establishing systems and processes for Brilla’s external communications and fundraising platforms, among other things. Isabel is working on completing her Applied Research Project for her Master of Arts in Integral Economic Development Policy from the Catholic University of America, and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Biology at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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