Celebrating Our 2017 Graduates Through Photos

Each spring, KDP staff members organize a photo contest for members to submit their graduation photos on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram) with the hashtag #KDPgrad and be entered into a drawing for one of five $20 gift certificates to the KDP Store.

This year, because the judges received so many great selfies, candids, and professional portraits as well as stories that accompanied, it was SO difficult a decision to choose only 5. But, rules are rules, so we are recognizing honorable mentions as well. (See the full album on Facebook here).

Below are the winners—in alphabetical order.

Saundra Armstrong

Saundra Armstrong, University of the District of Columbia

“After a career in the federal government and in non-for-profits for 20+ years in administrative positions, I was asked to substitute for two weeks. Needless to say 16 years later I’m still working with young children and have earned a BA with honors.”

Alexis Finch-Priester

Alexis Finch-Priester, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“I started college heading in the nursing track. Throughout my high school years I’ve always had a job where I was working with children, and I continued while in college. During my first year of college a found a job in the local school system and LOVED what I was doing. I just knew that this was the job for me. Being a first generation college student I was a bit hesitant to explain to my family that I was going to be changing my major. I knew I was making the right decision. Without even noticing I had become an advocate for education. I realized my true passion for leading children, making every little moment teachable. I never thought that I would be graduating with an education degree but I am so excited that I get to call myself an educator. I’m so glad that I get to make a positive impact in the lives of children the way so many of my teachers did. I know this job will be rewarding in so many ways and I can’t wait to have my own classroom.”

Malia Rivera

Malia Rivera, James Madison University

“When I was in 8th grade, I had a teacher tell me I wasn’t good at math and I’d never be good. Later in High School I came to the realization that my teacher was very wrong, I was good at math! All I needed was a teacher who believed in my success. Since then, I have been determined to become a secondary math teacher. My journey to becoming a teacher has lead me on a mission to get rid of the mindset of “I can’t do that, I’m not good at math” that many students have. All it takes is one great teacher that believes in them, and I plan on being that teacher.”

Michael Williams

Michael Williams, Georgia State University

“I grew up in poverty and lost my mother at a young age. Growing up, teachers were there for me when I needed them the most. I experienced first-hand how much impact an educator can have on a child’s life. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade for no good reason. If it weren’t for some of my close family and my teachers, I am not sure I would have returned to school and completed my high school diploma. My teachers pushed me to apply for colleges and did everything they could to help me out. After spending two years at a smaller college, I transferred to Georgia State University where I just graduated summa cum laude with my Bachelors of Science in Middle-Level Education with concentrations in language arts, social science, and special education general curriculum. I also completed a minor in special education: high incidence disabilities. I’ll be working through the summer as a 7th-grade social science teacher in Atlanta, GA and will officially begin my teaching career as an 8th-grade Georgia History teacher in Gwinnett County Public Schools for the 2017-2018 school year.”

Kathy Zhao

Kathy Zhao, Stevenson University

“I have always loved working with children since I was 12 years old. I started with babysitting, then in the summer I was a camp counselor, and later worked at a daycare. From there I feel in love and I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I believe that teachers are the foundation. My senior year of college, I loved every moment of student teaching and I knew right away that teaching will be my passion. I loved seeing my student’s eyes light up when they understand something they learned. I want to be apart and touch many children’s lives.”


And these are our honorable mentions (in alphabetical order)…

Sierra Becker

Sierra Becker, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (for Best Mortar Board)

“I have always had a caring, passionate personality. Throughout my college career I have dabbled in various career paths; however, I always wandered back to teaching. Once I transferred to UW-Whitewater I dove head first into everything I needed to do in order to excel as a secondary educator. Even with an accident last fall that has postponed my student teaching, I have stayed resilient with my career path. From that, and through the resources that KDP has offered me, I have found a multitude of opportunities to continue my career in the teaching field and continue my service educating our youth!”

Ursula Bryant

Ursula Bryant, University of Saint Thomas-Houston (for Most Inspirational Story)

“I was a teen mom, didn’t get a high school diploma. At 21 I received my GED. I was a single stay at home mother with two children who were disabled. After my son died in 1997, I started school, receiving my degree in teaching at the age of 40. After teaching ten years, I returned for my master’s in school counseling, which I’ve graduated with May 20, 2017.”

Audre Cantrell

Audre Cantrell, Northeastern State University (for Best Action Shot)

“I started my journey by volunteering with Community Action Project in Tulsa, OK (CAP Tulsa). It is an early childhood program for low income families. The program provides early childhood education to the child as well as before and after care. The program also helps the family find work, extra food, and clothing. The mission of CAP Tulsa is to pull the whole family out of poverty. I have been working with the program for the past three summers (first as a volunteer and twice as a part time teacher assistant). Because of this experience, I was motivated to go back to school to receive my Early Childhood Education degree. I have been offered and accepted a lead teacher position in a three year old classroom with CAP Tulsa. I am so excited to share my love for learning and play with my students. Education is a powerful tool to have in life. I want to inspire my students to continue to learn and to become a lifelong learner.”

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