ARISE High School

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About Us » Head of School's Message

Head of School's Message

It is with great honor, humility and excitement that I introduce myself, Soo Jin Kim, as the Head of School at ARISE High School.


For the past twelve years, I have dedicated myself to social justice, equitable education and education reform having taught every subject at the secondary level (9-12) in English, Math, Science and History and held various leadership positions at top-performing charter schools in California and New York.


I've had the privilege to see thousands of students graduate from high school and hundreds graduate from college. As a leader, I've developed systematic approaches to solving complete problems in student attrition, school culture, data and performance metrics while creating a school environment that serves and celebrates the whole child.


When you enter ARISE you can immediately tell that you’ve found a special place. On your way up the stairs a student may have made eye contact and said hello, they might have asked if you needed help, or they may have just held the door open for you as you entered. You wonder how a school can exist in such a unique space, how it’s possible that a school is in a major transit hub. You’re greeted by the latest student art, a mural painted 5 years earlier by a postsession class and banners that display the Authenticity, Rigor, Inspiration, Success, and Empowerment at the core of our name.


We believe education does not start or end in the classroom. True learning occurs at all times, when you succeed, when you fail, when you make mistakes, and when  you accomplish your goals. We believe that as a school we are teaching all the time. Every hallway interaction, smile, check-in, home visit, and family meeting communicates who we are, what we value, and why we are here.
ARISE is a special place. We’ve carved out a small piece of East Oakland and made it our home. We’ve offered to this community a sanctuary where we attempt to disrupt toxic schooling practices, the trauma of poverty, and institutionalized oppression. By examining our living conditions, growing our skills in reading, writing, numeracy, and critical thinking, and applying what we’ve learned to our personal and community transformation we as a community can and will ARISE.


Core Features

ARISE High School is distinct in its core features: it provides a Relevant and Rigorous Curriculum within a Collaborative School Culture.


  • Relevant and Rigorous Curriculum - Utilizing two main methodologies, Understanding By Design and the Workshop Model, ARISE students are supported in practicing and applying academic skills and knowledge in a manner that:
  • Is aligned to state, national, and college and career readiness standards, utilizing standards-based grading
  • Allows for equitable, flexible, and individualized support for and engagement of all learners
  • Challenges each learner to think critically and creatively
  • Offers multiple opportunities to revise, reflect, and incorporate feedback in order to continuously improve their work
  • Constructs visible, active, and performance-based demonstrations of growth, learning, and understanding
  • Provides explicit modeling to support skill and academic development


  • Collaborative School Culture - The ARISE community fosters a collaborative school culture, to support students in their development through the following:
  • Students are explicitly taught and consistently challenged to work in a variety of constructs - from individual tasks and pairs to group projects and challenges - in order to grow, learn, and support one another to excel as scholars and a caring community of learners
  • Staff work in a highly collaborative and accountable manner to support our students, build/improve the curriculum, and identify areas of focus and growth for both adults and youth
  • Families consistently partner with ARISE to ensure and provide effective support, resources, and input that support continuous growth and improvement


Restorative Praxis

The social-curriculum at ARISE is centered on our Core Values: Respect, Persevere, Build, and Lead. We recognize that teachers teach more than just content, they teach who they are.  With this in mind we understand that intentional preparation and culture production in our classrooms leads to increased community satisfaction, buy-in, and academic achievement.


However, acknowledging the existence of this curriculum and the preparation needed to create healthy, loving, rigorous, and challenging classrooms and schools are two vastly different things. As such, over the years ARISE has been evolving its philosophy, systems, and structures to more clearly communicate what it means to Respect, Persevere, Build, and Lead. Grounded in the work of Keinfeld (1975), Ware (2006), Hollie (2011), Inlay (2010), and Claassen (2008), we’ve developed a multilayered system that explicitly recognizes our work as educators and culture producers.


There are three major components necessary for our Restorative Praxis program to be successful. These include approaching our teaching in the following ways:
  1. Warm Demander: develop your students as human beings first
    • Family & Culture: understand & honor the strengths of the community
    • Authenticity: model the vulnerability, humility and the Codes of Respect, be an ally
    • Clear Boundaries: show strength, listen & affirm, challenge & offer a choice
    • Growth Mindset: believe in the “impossible”, embrace failure
  1. Safe Classroom Community: protect your students in a potentially dangerous world
    • Prevention: clear expectations, talk about values, review flow chart
    • Core Values: Develop class norms based on these so students are clear about when they are upholding them and when they are not. Ground your discussions on culture and behavior in the Core Values.
    • Routines & Rituals: Mindfulness, Talking Circles, Systems for Student Success (See Organization & Structure)
    • Intervention: assume positive intent, keep it in perspective, deliberate escalation, when to stop the curriculum and when/how to remove students
  1. Knowledge of Students: start where your students are, not where you want/imagine them to be
    • Prior Knowledge:  Take time to become familiar with who is in their classroom. Pay attention to how they interact with the space, materials, and each other. What do students know? What are their experiences? Misconceptions?
    • Student Voice: What do students care about? What do they think?
    • Individual Needs: differentiation without tracking, adjusting instruction based on formative assessment
    • Choice: students should have real choices about how and what they learn (this does not mean we let students study whatever they want, but rather that students should be active in driving their own learning)


ARISE’s vision to improve our own material and social conditions is the foundation for a Restorative Praxis (RP) program that trains our community to develop the agency and power to bring about change.


I look forward to meeting you in person.




Soo Jin Kim

Head of School