‘STEAM’ing Ahead Through Project-Based Learning in Uganda

By Usha Rajdev

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Dr. Rajdev is a counselor for Marymount University’s, Alpha Beta Delta Chapter, of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society, and leads the STEM initiative in KDP’s International Committee. She’s a faculty advisor for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Student Chapter and also for Marymount University’s Global STEM Certificate.

With this need to prepare our youth for future challenges in mind, in November 2018, in Indianapolis, I presented a ‘STEAMing Scientists’ workshop (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) about my upcoming STEM teaching approach. The following year, I would model this approach for the KDP Esooka chapter in Uganda. After my Indianapolis presentation, several audience members asked to meet with me. They expressed their interest in this upcoming STEM hands-on teaching approach. In 2019, I embarked on a journey to provide STEM education to teachers and institutions of the Esooka KDP Chapter. This STEM education was part of the KDP STEM Initiative. Over the course of two weeks I met with faculty members from one university and administrators and teachers from four local high schools to develop STEM programs. Under my guidance, The Mosquito! Module (https://ssec.si.edu/mosquito) was implemented at the five institutions. Teachers from each institution engaged in training using local resources to later implement this project with their students.

The Mosquito! Module framework focused on sustainable actions that students defined and implemented to reduce mosquito infestations in and around schools. The content of the module included cleaning wells, removal of stagnant water, learning the life cycle of mosquitoes and the spread of diseases, and the importance and urgency of engineering and designing mosquito traps. The Ugandian students continued to work and strengthen their projects and traps throughout 2019. They were actively engaged in informing their surrounding community about the mosquito problems and offering realistic and sustainable solutions. The students also communicated with the school nurse to document the decline in cases of malaria in their schools. They were looking forward to sharing their data and projects at the next International KDP/STEM Convo in 2020. However, due to COVID-19 canceling the 2020 Convocation, this KDP presentation will take place at a later date.

Uganda’s KDP/STEM story does not end here with the Mosquito! Module. The Ugandan teachers will continue to work on this module over the coming years and will present their projects at some point when routine life begins. They plan to mentor and expand this Mosquito! Module with other schools and will begin their work on the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s COVID19! Module with me. The effects of the contagion will be compared with that of the mosquito diseases within their local communities.

Teachers and students met monthly online with me to update their progress and receive support on how to best continue and overcome any challenges. In October 2019, members of the Esooka Chapter met with the Smithsonian Science Education Center to discuss progress of the Module. Some schools had an abundance of stagnant water, while others dealt with marsh areas. The teachers and I also discussed ideas for the future of the program including an International KDP/STEM Conference that is planned for Kampala, in Uganda, when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. A Ugandan teacher who worked with our STEM program entered his student in a STEM competition. Of the 1,200 students involved in the project, the student’s presentation, demonstrating his passion for sustainability, was one of the winning projects. (https://bit.ly/2BSa2Qm). All five institutions are working on the criteria for a ‘STEM School Certificate’ through Marymount University’s Global STEM Chapter.

As described by the Esooka Chapter Counselor, Joyce, Nansubuga, this experience through KDP’s STEM Initiative helped in… “making teaching and learning more practical through the PBL approach, being an innovative teacher and a lifelong learner, and embracing STEAM in preparations of our lessons and in teaching.”

The journey continues. (https://bit.ly/2NHoJs7).

BLM

Black Lives Matter

Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, is an educational nonprofit organization that serves, supports, and provides leadership opportunities for more than 35,000 collegiate pre-service teachers, K-12 teachers, and teacher preparation faculty. In the wake of the recent killings of Mr. George Floyd, Ms. Breonna Taylor, Mr. Rayshard Brooks, and others at the hands of law enforcement, we would like to unequivocally affirm the sentiment that Black Lives Matter, not only in instances of police brutality, but in every facet of life. As such, we are committed to working in solidarity with our members and partners to implement systemically focused efforts that directly address the racial inequities within our beloved profession.

Teachers are often the most influential adults in the daily lives of their students beyond family. Teachers who embrace and exemplify diversity, equity, and inclusion transform the lives of students by expanding their minds, knowledge, and opportunities. We recognize this pivotal moment in history as a time to not only teach, but to pause, learn from and embrace the reality that not all of our lived experiences are the same. We also recognize this as a time to celebrate the academic, cultural and professional contributions of individuals throughout the African diaspora that have been undervalued for centuries.

Systemic racism in education prohibits children and adults of color from experiencing high quality, engaging educational experiences despite their talents and abilities. All people of color have a right to learn skills and acquire knowledge in educational environments that enable them to realize their inherent lifelong potential.

It is not enough to commit to solidarity and state our beliefs. We must act. Therefore, KDP’s leadership and staff commit to the following actions to ensure Black students, teachers, families, and communities stop being targeted with violence, oppression, and lesser opportunities:

  1. Acknowledge implicit biases, prejudices, and privilege within KDP by engaging in difficult conversations about racism while seeking solutions.
  2. Establish KDP’s first-ever Coalition for Anti-Racism in Education (CARE) to work with KDP on the development of processes that can support teachers to teach Black students well.
  3. Ensuring the work of Black educators is central to all of KDP’s programming.
  4. Provide ongoing staff training on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  5. Evaluate KDP’s policies and procedures to remove barriers for people of color to join as members, contribute thought leadership, and become employed.
  6. Diversify KDP leadership, staff, and membership to ensure the voices and votes of people of color are incorporated into KDP’s work locally, nationally, and globally.
  7. Expend resources to develop and expand KDP chapters in Historically Black Colleges & Universities.
  8. Partner with companies, organizations, foundations, and other educational associations to identify greater-impact solutions and opportunities for teachers of color.
  9. Be authentic, transparent, and committed to eliminate racism in and out of the classroom while never forgetting the countless lives lost or devastated by racism.

KDP remains committed to helping recruit, prepare, and retain a diverse, effective, and respected teacher workforce, and we look forward to working with you to eliminate racism in education.  If you wish to join KDP in these efforts, please email a message to CEO@kdp.org.

Sincerely,
tonja

 

Tonja Eagan, MPA, CFRE
Chief Executive Officer

BLM

Click to download the statement in PDF form.

COVID-19: A First Year Teacher Perspective

getty

Kathryn Getty at #KDPconvo19

Kathyrn Getty is a first year educator in New Jersey and a recent graduate of Kean University. She joined the Delta Rho Chapter of KDP in April 2018.

The 2019-2020 school year is my first year of professional teaching.

Going into my first year of teaching, fresh out of college, I was a mix of emotions.

I knew it was going to be difficult and that it was going to be a learning experience.

However, I never expected my first year of teaching to include a pandemic, resulting in remote learning.

Being a first grade teacher in an urban community, I have students who cannot readily access a tablet or computer and those who do not have internet.

The practicality of using a platform such as Google Classroom just wasn’t feasible for our demographic of students.

So, we spent hours upon hours printing packets that contained two weeks’ worth of instruction for ELA, math, science, and social studies.

The lack of printers in the building proved to be a huge issue.

In order for other grade levels to print out their materials, I volunteered to head to Office Depot and print the remainder of the packets that we were unable to complete at the school. Thank goodness, I had the KDP discount. Because of that, I saved $364.83!

The day before remote instruction began, parents had the entire day to come in and pick up their child’s materials.

Their materials consisted of two packets from the lead teacher, each consisting of one week’s work. In addition to that, work was also sent home for specials and my five gifted and talented students, and my seven ELLs were provided supplemental materials from the ELL teacher. Once the students had everything they needed, remote instruction was ready to begin on March 18th.

My main source of communication with the parents is Class Dojo, an application that parents can download on their smartphone or use on the computer. On Class Dojo I am able to post reminders, direct-message parents, and award points to students as an incentive. For weeks one and two, I recorded the students’ attendance if they answered a question I asked about their work for that day on their Class Dojo portfolio. In addition to Class Dojo, I also created an account with Splash Learn for students to get supplemental math practice, and I have been assigning students reading assignments through Raz-Kids.

One word that would describe my remote-learning experience is flexibility.

Many parents are essential workers and are unable to work with their children or contact me during the day. As a grade-level team, we decided to have the attendance question due by 9:00PM in order to accommodate those parents.

I have noticed that empathizing with the parents and remaining in constant communication helps put them at ease and allows the remote learning process to run more smoothly.

Most recently, our administration has told us to begin running Zoom sessions so that we can interact with our students and teach/answer questions in real time.

Being able to interact with my students has made me feel like a teacher again.

This situation is not ideal; however, I have learned more about adaptability and patience than I ever thought I would.

To know that others are dealing with the same scenario has shown me just how supportive and connected the teaching community is.

convowjoe

Members of the Delta Rho Chapter with Joe “Mr. D” Dombrowski at #KDPconvo19

The Delta Rho chapter of KDP has begun a weekly “teachers lounge,” where officers and members log into Zoom to talk about our successes, struggles, ask for advice, and socialize “face to face”.

My favorite part about KDP has always been the connections and closeness of our chapter. A pandemic has not stopped us from socializing appropriately or growing as professionals. Even though we do not know when this pandemic will end, I am put at ease knowing that I have the support of my co-workers and Delta Rho chapter.

When we return to the classroom, I am confident that this whole experience will have made me a better teacher.

COVID-19: A Substitute Teacher’s Perspective

LizTaylorLiz Taylor, a 2019 Daytona State College graduate, has weathered a significant numbers of ups-and-downs in her short life. She recently wrote about how her chapter supported her recovery after a life altering accident. (link to blog). She’s currently serving as a substitute teacher for Daytona-area schools.

Phew! It was Thursday, March 12th, the day before Spring Break.

I spent the day at Bunnell Elementary in Flagler County, Florida.

I had already gone tumbling down half a flight of stairs while walking my students to lunch, so I was looking forward to what I thought would only be a week off school.

All the students in the class I was teaching that day were freaking out about the Covid 19 pandemic that’s been spreading around the world. I reassured them the best I knew how to.

Little did they know, I was scared, too.

I knew that we all deserved a week to relax away from school. Little did I know we’d be off much longer than that.

I had just arrived home from work that afternoon when the news broke. The Florida Department of Education was extending Spring Break for Central Florida students by one week to slow the spread of the virus in Florida. “Hmm… okay. I’ll manage,” I said to myself as I walked over to my refrigerator to check my work week schedule. You see, I had just graduated from Daytona State College’s School of Education that past spring with my Bachelors in Elementary Education. Unfortunately, there weren’t any full-time positions available. I was substitute teaching for the time being.

Then, as time went on, the virus continued to spread. “Social distance,” we were told. Then, the DOE told everyone that two weeks would be turned into four and then eight, and that the full-time teachers would start to plan for computer-based “distance learning.” “Oh, no!” I said, as the panic started to set in. A lump started to form in my throat. “I guess online learning doesn’t leave districts with the need for substitute teachers,” since Florida teachers would be working from home. I would be left jobless.

I took the easiest first step I could think of and I started looking for jobs teaching virtual school through Florida Virtual School. They weren’t hiring elementary teachers, either. I jumped on my computer and started reaching out to people at my district, letting them know that I was free, certified, endorsed, and willing and able to work anywhere they needed me. Then, I emailed the principals and assistant principals of the county’s five elementary schools and relayed the same message. Everyone reached back out to me, thanking me for my willingness to help, and told me that they’d reach out to me if they needed me. I’ve done all that I can for the time being. Now, my responsibility is to keep myself busy while keeping myself and my family safe.

I reached out to a couple of working moms that I know and let them know that I was free and available to help their kids with any online learning that they needed help with. It’s important to stick together during these times of uncertainty. I might not know what’s next as far as my career goes, but what I do know for sure is that we will eventually be back in classrooms in front of students at some point. Just because I don’t have any work doesn’t mean I want to be away from kids. If I can help a couple of local families during this time of uncertainty, I’d be glad to.
I wasn’t planning to be starting my career as a teacher during a global pandemic, much less as a substitute teacher without job security.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about viruses, it’s that they don’t care what your plans are for the year. They do not take into consideration jobs, after-school activities, substitute teachers and others being left without jobs, or the thousands of students around the nation who would be left without a classroom to go to for an undetermined amount of time.

Learning will still happen. Together, we can get through this.

As for me, for now I will continue supporting my fellow teachers while daydreaming about a future classroom and class of my own next school year.

COVID-19: A Professor’s Perspective

Cosco-TaraTara Cosco, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education at Milligan College. She has been a KDP member for more than 20 years and serves as the Counselor of the Alpha Iota Iota Chapter.

 

 

Initially, when we heard about the Coronavirus, the college was on spring break, so to be honest I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I was enjoying my time off.

Then, the college announced we had an extra week of spring break.

Naturally, I reacted joyfully. I took long walks in the park with my co-worker and enjoyed the extra time off from work.

Then, the college announced we needed to transition to online teaching for the rest of the semester.

What? I better look into what this is truly all about. The college is one of the last places to close. When public schools close, we tend to stay open if at all possible, so this must be serious, I thought.

I wasn’t too worried about the transition to teaching online. One of my classes was already online, and most of my materials are housed online anyway.

The first week of online teaching was okay. I added assignments to make up for the in-class work I would have typically given them. I wasn’t feeling the stress I assumed some of my other colleagues were, because I love technology and use it often anyway.

Then, we had an area meeting, and the realities of what others were facing became apparent.

My chair talked about the students’ fears about graduation and how they would finish the hours needed in the schools as a student teacher and intern. We were told many of the mentor teachers were now having to homeschool their own children and at the same time teach their students. Spouses were out of work and tensions were high. My heart started to ache for the students who dreamed of their senior year with friends and their graduation celebration. The moment they had all worked so hard for was now something that we feared would not happen.

The second week of class in quarantine, I decided to hold a Zoom meeting and allow students to gather together virtually if they could. I allowed those who were unable to attend the virtual class to watch the replay later.

I was thrilled to see my students’ faces again! I had missed them terribly!

This pandemic had taught me that there was a lot in this world I took for granted. I took for granted the everyday conversations, interactions with colleagues, students, friends, and family. We held class as usual, only through a screen instead of in person. It worked well! I was pleased with the technology, the ability to share my screen, and interact as if we were in an actual classroom.

It is now early April, and we are starting a month-long lockdown.

I am missing my colleagues, students, friends, and loved ones terribly!

I miss eating out, social gatherings, a friendly hug. The news tells of projected deaths and times are scary.

I hope everyone stays safe and we return to normal soon with an attitude of gratitude.

For e-learning resources and a community of peers, visit KDP’s website at http://www.kdp.org.

Remembering Clementine

Clementine SkinnerIt seems fitting during Black History Month to honor and remember Dr. Clementine A. Skinner (1916–2006), KDP’s first African-American president. She served from 1976-1978.

Clementine was born in Birmingham, Ala., the daughter of John and Alice McConico. Her family relocated to Chicago during the Great Northern Migration, partly due to controversy caused by her father’s involvement in the civil rights movement.  In Chicago, her father owned McConico’s Book and Magazine store, which housed and sold publications by and about African Americans.

Beyond being an academic and trailblazing Kadelpian, she was instrumental in preserving and sharing African-American history, a passion which was influenced largely by her experience at her father’s bookstore. Skinner was a close friend and contemporary of the founder of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is credited with creating the celebration that evolved into Black History Month in 1926.

As I was researching her life, I came across a CNN article from Feb. 14, 1996, 18 years ago today. The article quoted a then 80-year-old Skinner as a representative from the ASALH. In that article, Skinner said, “We never sat around and spent all our time worrying about being segregated…We worked for integration constantly in all areas of society.”

Her life’s legacy illustrates that quote perfectly. After she graduated high school, Clementine went to work at Woolworth’s, where she worked her way from salesclerk to floor manager and eventually buyer, the first African American to be promoted to this position. She began using her position to create change and was instrumental in getting items like cosmetics and hosieries for women of color. Her letters to the corporate offices also impacted the company’s employment practices as they related to minorities.

After becoming a mother and serving in the First Women’s Army Corps, she began her college career in 1953 at the age of 41. She received an associate’s degree in 1959. She then enrolled in Chicago Teachers College—now known as Chicago State University—and received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1960 (she was initiated into Theta Rho Chapter that year) and a master’s degree in1963.

In 1976, the same year she became KDP president, Clementine earned an Ed.D from Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She was 60 years old.

We are so proud to have had Dr. Clementine Skinner as a member, past president, and distinguished educator, and we celebrate and honor her during Black History Month.

We Are Fully Aware That We Are Facing a “Global Learning Crisis”

But What Are We, As Americans, Truly Doing To Solve Our Own Education Crisis?

Shortly before the 2019 International Youth Day, the United Nations General Secretary, Mr. Guterres, stated that the world is currently facing a “learning crisis.” The UN Chief also mentioned how pivotal it is for students to not only learn, “but to learn how to learn.”

One of the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that all students have access to an inclusive and equitable education.

As a first-year teacher and sociology of education graduate student, I believe that before we can solve our “global learning crisis,” we must acknowledge that in our very own backyard, here in the United States, our public education system is failing our students.

In fact, in his book, City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, Dr. Pedro Noguera expresses how as a nation, we are aware that our public education system is failing our children and youth. Yet, very little is being done to ensure that our students receive an inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education.

For that reason, as a first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, I agree with Dr. Noguera, “we can’t wait for permission to do what’s right.”  We simply cannot wait for our elected officials to establish equitable policies, nor can we wait for the “political climate to be right.” Real change happens from below.

With that being said, come September, in my third-grade classroom, my top priority will be to ensure that I provide my students with a high-quality education. An education that will enable them to challenge and enhance not only their thinking, but the thinking of their fellow classmates and teachers as well.

When we provide students with the necessary skills, they are given the opportunity to make a difference in their world.

To end, I urge all teachers, specifically all first-year teachers “to not wait for permission,” as per real change can certainly occur in their very own classrooms.

Kevin Cataldo

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).

Teachers Are So Much More Than Teachers

Hi, I’m Katelynd Dreger. This is #WhyITeach.

Simply put, I am in it for the kids.

I go to school each day knowing that my kids need me. I am not just a teacher; I am a safe person, I am a parent, I am a counselor, I am a nurse. I enjoy helping others.

After graduating with my BA in Elementary Education, I spent a year and a half substitute teaching. I enjoyed being able to help so many kids. Some days it was obvious that I was able to help a kid, or maybe two, beyond simply teaching and filling the role of ‘teacher’ for the day. While on other days, it wasn’t so clear.

I eventually moved to Southwest Kansas to teach first grade. I was amazed that I had to teach my students to put toilet paper in the toilet and flush it because some of them did not have working toilets at home. This was also my first experience with a large number of students learning to speak English as a second language. While in Kansas, I made some strides with many students, which was incredibly rewarding.

One student, with whom I had a strong connection, required my help after he had gone to second grade, and his teacher passed away in the fall. He was a very loving and caring kid, so this hit him pretty hard. His mom came to me when he started acting out at school. He and I spent some time together during my planning period the following day. We talked about what was bothering him; we cried together, and we read a favorite story. Things started going better for him after that.

I know I am not a magician. But I also know how much relationships matter. Taking time to listen matters.

Another student I had while in Kansas struggled with his anger and was a reluctant reader. We were able to work on a system together to help him control his anger. Further, through an author study on Ezra Jack Keats, I was able to get him interested in reading. I’m not sure if it was the activities we did with the books or if it was just the right thing for him or a combination. He was particularly enamored with “Peter’s Chair.” His mom shared that they had that book at home and he’s never been interested in it. Sometimes it’s all about timing. Sometimes it’s all about the relationship. Sometimes it’s both.

After teaching in Kansas, I moved back to Southwest Michigan where I taught in a small private school for a few years. While there, I had a student who moved to Michigan from out of state when his father died in a car accident. On top of all of the emotional baggage he was carrying, he also struggled to be understood due to speech troubles. Some days, he needed extra love. Some days, he needed space and a chance to sit at our calm down spot (a classroom staple, inspired by him). Some days, he needed a break from the classroom. It was challenging every day to know which of these he needed, but it was so rewarding to know when we got it right.

Now, I am in a public school again. My kids need me every day. Many of them are going through life in ways that 8-year-old should not have to.

I’ve found that relationships are critical in all settings, but they mean so much more to the learners in my current environment.

Finally, while my title is classroom TEACHER, I am so much more than that. I teach for many reasons.

  • I teach to help kids learn to read and do math.
  • I teach to help kids learn to be successful citizens.
  • I teach to help kids learn to be true to themselves.
  • I teach to help kids through their problems, both at home and at school.
  • I teach to make a difference in the lives of kids.
  • I teach to make a difference in my community.
  • I teach to make a difference in my state.
  • I teach to make a difference in my country.
  • I teach to make a difference in the world.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Teaching Is An Expression Of My Authentic Self

Hi, I’m Mischelle Duranleau. This is #WhyITeach.

The question, “Why do you teach?” is still one that makes me pause even after 20 years as a classroom instructor.

I teach because I must. This is my best answer.

As an elective teacher in a small high school, I wear many hats. I have taught every level and form of art common in schools, psychology, sociology, health. and even home economics. No matter the specific subject and projects, I am blessed to teach much more than that. I teach students to believe in themselves, to celebrate failure, to build relationships that have a lasting impression.

It is difficult to draw one story from my memory banks that stands out as the pivotal “Aha!” moment. In twenty years, I have chosen to be open and honest with my students so that they could see how to face challenges with integrity and grit.

My true purpose is to teach the skills of embracing uncertainty and learning to be brave. When I was diagnosed with stage two, uterine sarcoma, my students shared in the emotional and physical transformation which was chemotherapy. Even though I was exhausted, bald, and frail, I made the choice to continue teaching during treatments. If I am to be completely honest, my students gave me their strength when I felt empty.

We talked openly about courage, fear, and embracing life just as it shows up.

Several years later, my school was rocked by the unexpected death of a very popular senior student months before he was supposed to graduate. His suicide rocked me to my knees. I questioned, “Was my presence of any value? Was I really making a difference?” The answer was clear when I came into the building the next day to a classroom full of students looking to me to help them navigate the unimaginable.

At that moment, I knew that teaching was more than information delivery.

Teaching is the courage to care, cry, and be human with my students. I must teach hope, integrity, and the skills needed to know that life will continue. To impart the ability to perceive and rise above to each occasion, knowing that we are in this together.

My room is a place of belonging, is safe to fail, feel vulnerable and to face life’s challenges with bravery.

I teach because it is an expression of my authentic self, essential as breathing.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!