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Educator of the Year Dr. Kiana Pendleton



Dr. Kiana Pendleton initially wanted to be a news anchor. It was at the encouragement of an Americorps supervisor that she began to consider and explore a career as an educator. Both of her grandparents were retired educators.


She first served as an Americorps tutor, providing tutoring services for students in the Jackson Public School District. The Jackson, Mississippi native was then hired as a kindergarten teacher at Crystal Springs Elementary School in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, where she taught for five years. Cheryl Haynes served as the principal of the school and Kiana credits for her for helping to develop her as an educator. Additionally, she has taught second grade, fourth-grade English Language Arts and served as a reading interventionist. She also worked as an elementary reading specialist for the Hattiesburg Public School District.

“My ultimate goal as an educator is to not only produce students who can pass a test, but help develop them to think critically and analytically, to make sense of difficulty problems and come up with solutions; develop emotional and social intelligence; demonstrate integrity and character; and work collaboratively with others while respecting various opinions and beliefs.”

Kiana, a wife and mother of a three-year-old daughter, is the head principal at Laurel Magnet School of the Arts. In less than two short years, her innovative, non-conventional and data driven approach to education led to the school’s first “A” rating and a 100 percent pass rate for the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program in English Language Arts, more commonly known as the “third-grade reading gate.” Not only is this the first “A” rating the school has ever received, but it is also the first “A” in the history of the school district. Self-described as an over-the-top educator, Kiana is passionate about her profession and spends her time building teacher capacity, cultivating a data-driven culture and giving back to the community by involving key stakeholders to help increase student achievements and outcomes. Some of the unique and engaging activities that she employs to increase student achievements include: implementing a “Dead Words Funeral” to eulogize overused words in student writing and vocabulary, soliciting local businesses and community leaders to donate almost 100 bikes to give to students who met their state test goals and seeking letters written by parents and teachers for students at Laurel Magnet that encourage them to do their best on the state testing. In 2019, Kiana was recognized as Administrator of the Year by the Laurel School District.


Kiana received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Tougaloo College, a Master of Science in mass communications from Jackson State University and Ph.D. in educational administration from Jackson State University. She is married to her husband of seven years, Dorsett Pendleton, and they have a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Kinsley Noelle Pendleton.


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