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Keisha Moody-Seymour & Courtney Moulder

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In 1996 two girls began their freshman year at a high-performing, well-resourced school just outside of St. Louis.  One was awake by 5 a.m. in preparation for her 1.5-hour bus ride from the northside of St. Louis to her mostly white school in the suburbs; the other was not yet aware of her privilege living just minutes from the coveted high school.  The St. Louis desegregation program was established to increase racial integration in public schools and involved bussing black students from the city to typically higher performing, mostly white schools outside of the city. The two young girls embarking on their high school years had no idea that this would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship and the catalyst 27 years later for them to partner together to found a top-notch public school in an area of St. Louis that currently lacks high-quality educational opportunities.

We are those two young girls and lifelong friends. We both went on to University of Missouri, developed a passion for teaching, and went our separate ways to begin our teaching careers - one to teach in Chicago and the other to teach in Miami.  We spent the next 18 years teaching and leading in schools across the country, always coming back together to reflect on our aspirations as educators. 

By 2022, we had both returned to St. Louis and were now mothers searching for schools that would meet the high bar of excellence we had for the quality of our own children’s learning experiences.  In this process, several stark realities set in - there are not enough seats in high-quality schools in the city of St. Louis; educators and students are not physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually well, which the pandemic further highlighted; and the instruction being provided for students across the city is not preparing them for success in their future. We are confident that we are creating a blueprint of a new educational model that will serve as a proof-point for what education should look like for all students and educators in the highest-need areas of our city.

Currently, there is no model of educational excellence in a public, open-enrollment school in the city of St. Louis, and we aspire to change that with Spark Academy.   We want to open Spark Academy because we know change is needed in our city to ensure all students have a high-quality schooling option, and we believe that we have the experience, skillset, and tenacity to create the prototype of educational excellence in the city of St. Louis.  

As co-founders we bring a dynamic set of experiences and passion to create an innovative school model for St. Louis. Together, we have over 3.5 decades of teaching and leadership experiences to create a prototype of educational excellence in the city of St. Louis.Our unique experiences working in some of the nation’s lowest-performing and under-resourced schools, as well as some of the most sought after high-performing schools, has positioned us to design a school that provides all students with truly transformational learning.  Our wealth of expertise in instructional excellence, educator training and development, curricular design, social-emotional learning, counseling, project management, and building organizational systems lead us to invest the rest of our careers in creating the type of school that the families of St. Louis have been demanding for decades; the type of school that we will send our own children to.  There has never been a greater need for change in our educational system. We are invested in providing the students of St. Louis with an educational experience that affords them a future of choice and limitless opportunities.

Keisha Moody-Seymour

Educational & youth intervention leader with 17 years of experience in primary/secondary education.

Passion for whole-person learning, community-building & alternative approaches to mental wellness.

A St. Louis native, Keisha graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She moved to Chicago and pursued her love for teaching by entering a cohort of Chicago Teaching Fellows. During Keisha’s 11 years teaching and coaching in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), she  pursued a School Psychology Specialist Degree, which led her to working more closely with students one-on-one and in small group settings. The focus of this work was to help each student learn to self-advocate and use a strengths-based approach, which opened the door for them to unlock and achieve their academic and social goals. During Keisha’s CPS tenure, she also developed and implemented innovative programs, including leveraging a partnership with The Community Garden that strengthened community relationships while providing students with experiential learning opportunities across science, engineering and nutrition in a space of peace and solitude. 

In Keisha’s next role, she combined her passion for teaching, coaching, and psychology/counseling and worked as the Elementary Intervention Manager for KIPP DC Charter Schools. When her family returned to St. Louis in 2017, she worked at Kirkwood School District (her alma mater) as a Curriculum Facilitator for the District, which included launching an SEL curriculum district-wide and an SEL Coach Team. One key focus of the team was to help repair relationships between teachers and students who otherwise would be labeled and treated as disruptive. By creating support actions, behaviors changed between those students and teachers, helping to build and foster more inclusive and peaceful classroom environments. Her experience leading the SEL Coach team continued to highlight the importance of her background in counseling. Keisha is entering her third year as a Ph.D. counseling student with a focus on reimagining how community outreach and alternative therapy models show up in marginalized communities and support healing in those communities.

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Courtney Moulder

Educational and instructional leader with 17 years of experience in primary/secondary education.

Passion for student-centered instruction, inquiry-based learning and teacher advocacy.

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A St. Louis native and Mizzou graduate, Courtney began her career in education in 2006 when she joined Teach For America.  As someone who was always passionate about educational equity, she was excited for the opportunity to move to Miami to teach in one of the nation’s lowest performing middle schools in one of the poorest and most neglected areas in the country.  She spent the next 12 years teaching middle school mathematics in traditional urban public schools and public charter schools across Miami, Chicago and Atlanta. Courtney quickly discovered that to make transformational changes in her students’ lives, she was going to need a lot more than a strong passion for equity.  

After attending a summer program at Rice University, Courtney gained clarity on the importance of instruction that put students at the center of their learning. Throughout the years, she continued to refine her instructional practices and curricular resources, honing her craft of developing students’ critical thinking, curiosity, ingenuity, and their ability to apply what they learned to novel situations.

In 2018, Courtney transitioned into a curriculum and instructional leadership position with IDEA Public Charter Schools. While in this position she was able to impact the way math was taught across the 60+ IDEA schools in Texas, and was able to provide teachers with high-quality instructional resources. In this position, she was also hit with the realization that no matter how engaging and thorough a lesson is, teachers need adequate time, coaching  and ongoing development to effectively execute  lessons. In 2022, Courtney moved back to St. Louis to raise her toddler near family and friends.  That Fall, she began working with North Side Community School as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. In that role, she leaned heavily into the necessity of advocating for the needs of teachers to ensure they had the right support to show up as their best selves. 

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