Alumni Spotlight: Alicia D’joi climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and found parallels to teaching on her way down

Our Alumni Spotlight Series showcases how Kenan Fellows make a difference in their schools, districts, and communities. Each profile features an interview with fellowship alumni that highlights their achievements, diverse journeys and expertise in the field of education.

Alicia D’joi, a 2022-23 Kenan Fellow, is a Career Technology Education (CTE) and PLTW teacher at J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville. Currently, in her ninth year of teaching, D’joi has achieved numerous milestones. These include being selected as one of three finalists for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools 2024 CTE Teacher of the Year, earning the title of Teacher of the Year at her school in 2023, and securing several grants such as the Governor’s Educator Discovery Award, a Bosch Best Teacher Grant and a First Inspires Rookie Grant.

Last year, she participated in the CMS Foundation Teacher Talk, where she shared her experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Through this journey, she reflected on the significance of teamwork in overcoming obstacles and challenges, drawing parallels to her role as an educator.

Following a challenging descent from the summit, D’joi contemplated her climb. Feeling drained and disoriented, she emerged with a powerful insight: “Know who is on your team. … When you know your people, they will help you move some of the biggest mountains in your teaching career.”

D'joi during her Mt. Kilimanjaro climb.

Could you recount a specific experience during your Kenan fellowship that left a lasting impact on your teaching?

The three Kenan Fellows Program professional development institutes were amazing. I felt seen and heard as an educator. Every session felt special and I gained close connections from being part of a statewide professional learning community. Since my fellowship, I’ve been more intentional in creating a culture of care in the classroom. I do my best to allow my students’ voices to be heard.

The fellowship made me reflect deeply on my purpose as an educator. It inspired me to lead beyond my school building and make connections to pour resources back into my school. I have had the opportunity to connect with DigiBridge and will host three robotic events for my students next year. 

Can you provide examples of how your students have benefited from the knowledge and skills you gained as a Kenan Fellow? 

During my fellowship, I was fortunate to partner with the Department of Computer Science at UNC-Charlotte, and my CTE students continue to benefit from this partnership. Each semester, UNC-Charlotte computer science students visit the school to deliver lessons and share resources with all of the CTE students at my school. Additionally, it has provided such a wonderful opportunity for girls in middle school to engage with female college students about the importance of diversity in STEM, particularly the need for more women in the field. 

As part of this partnership, a group of our female robotics students had the chance to interview some of the female UNC-Charlotte computer science students for a video podcast on women’s barriers to STEM careers.

What are some educational initiatives or projects you have been involved in following your fellowship? 

One notable initiative was securing grants to support my robotics program. I recall attending a workshop led by KFP alum Keith Burgess, where I learned strategies for identifying grant opportunities and honing my proposal writing skills. Over the last few years, I have obtained over $30,000 in grants which has greatly enhanced the resources available for my robotics program. 

This funding has allowed us to purchase equipment, provide specialized training for students, and expand our outreach efforts. As a result, our robotics program has flourished, and we now host a successful robotics competition each year. The competition attracts teams from across the state. Through these initiatives, my students gain hands-on experience and develop skills in teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking which prepares them for success in future STEM endeavors.