Meet Kenneth R. Hamilton, Jr., New Assistant Head of Lower School

Kenneth R. Hamilton, Jr. will join Poly as Assistant Head of Lower School as of July 1, 2021.

Hamilton comes to us from The Dalton School, where he was a Grade 3 Head Teacher since 2015 and served as First Program Equity Chair. He previously worked as a  Grade 2 Associate Teacher and Grade 3 Head Teacher at Trevor Day School.

Kenneth R. Hamilton, Jr. Assistant Head of Lower School
Kenneth R. Hamilton, Jr. , Poly’s new Assistant Head of Lower School

Hamilton grew up in New Jersey in a family of educators. His father was a teacher in special education.  Hamilton moved to New York six years ago and lives in Queens.

Hamilton earned a BA in psychology from Hofstra University. He later received a MS in Science Education: Elementary Education from Niagara University and a MS in Education: Elementary Math Specialist from Hunter College. He is currently working toward a Doctorate in Education: Leadership and Innovation from New York University.

He did not originally plan to go into teaching, but during a year spent as a Native English Teacher at Sung Cheon Elementary School in Busan, South Korea from 2011-2012, he “fell in love with teaching.” Immediately after, he applied to university for studies toward becoming a teacher.

Hamilton has taught in Grades 2 and 3 and says he enjoys these grades because children become more aware of connection and their place, “the self in community.” He calls this age “the sweet spot between independence and childish wonder.”

Seeing that Hamilton has taught math and pursued an advanced degree as an Elementary Math Specialist, one might think that he must have loved math as a child. But he says that as a child he “struggled with math.” When he began teaching, it was important to him to find new ways to conceptualize math. He understands the child who may feel challenged by math and wants the subject to be “exciting for kids.”

During his time at Dalton, Hamilton was responsible for creating inquiry-based lessons for math, reading, social studies, and writing. He initiated the restructuring of the third grade math curriculum. Since 2017 at Dalton, Kenneth, as the first Program Equity Chair, has been responsible for diversity and inclusion programming for 400 students and 80 members of the faculty and staff. In this role, he initiated scope and sequence curriculum resources for their lower school racial and ethnic affinity groups. He also led the initiative to develop a Social Justice curriculum for Dalton’s lower school students with the First Program Equity Council exploring topics of race, identity, allyship, and human and civil rights.

As First Program Equity Chair at Dalton, Hamilton worked with the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and created lesson plans with teachers. During Ally Week, he said, young students wanted to know, “Why do we need Ally Week?” He realized that young children need to learn the history behind the struggles for social justice.

Hamilton says he is thankful for the opportunity he had as part of a Bank Street program while at Dalton, to go to Morocco where he learned about Moroccan culture and identity . This led him to create a social studies curriculum at Dalton about the Age of Exploration, and Moroccan scholar and explorer Ibn Battuta, which explores identity and broadens the existing Euro-centric view of history. He said it is always important  when developing curriculum to consider, “Whose voices are centered and whose are absent?”

In all aspects of their school life, Hamilton emphasizes the need to create a space for children where they can be “their authentic selves.” Students need to feel “cared for,” he said.

Seeing that Poly is a community with progressive values assured Hamilton that the school would be a good fit for him. He saw that the Lower School is committed to creating a safe environment to achieve our DEI goals.

In his spare time, Hamilton is a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. One of his favorite children’s books is Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, an inspiring book about a little girl, who loves stories, and is encouraged to believe she can be whatever she wants to be. During the pandemic lockdown, Hamilton said he got hooked on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.

Hamilton describes himself as a “perpetual learner” who loves to travel. He has had the opportunity to chaperone student trips, which he really enjoyed, to Yellowstone National Park and Ghana for the “Year of the Return 2019,” a yearlong commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first recorded enslaved Africans in what became the United States. Next on his travel wish list are Thailand and then Brazil.

We welcome Kenneth Hamilton, Jr. to the Lower School and to the Poly Prep community.