Before becoming an educator, once upon a time I was a fourth grade student, who did not necessarily see school as my way ‘out’ or my way to ‘make it’ in this country.
*Then my fifth grade math teacher Ms. Blankenship (Ms. B) entered into my life. Little did I know, she would be the person who would change the rest of my life because of the way she empowered, equipped and engaged all of her students to envision something different for their lives.
Through an outpouring of positive messages, Ms. B consistently empowered her students to fundamentally think differently about what unique gifts each person brought to class. Whether that was via in-class celebrations, individualized morning motivational quotes or constant positive framing during times of challenge, Ms. B would never let a moment go by without encouraging her students to be the best versions of themselves. She often had us recite the words “Adversity equals opportunity for growth”. To this day those words are played in the back of my mind each time I face new challenges.
As mentioned before, Ms. B was very attentive to the unique gifts that each individual brought to class. Thus, instruction was always in some way, shape or form tailored to each student’s specific needs. Each class was different. Each group activity was varied. Each piece of feedback was individualized. How did she do this? To this day, I have no clue. What I do know is that it required both an intentionality and a will to meet each student where they were. This was the first time in my life anyone had told me that I mattered and that what I brought to class each day was appreciated.
The last thing that Ms. B did well, which forever impacted the trajectory of my life, was how she consistently engaged students to create a voice. She always asked me “How are you leveraging your passions?”. Regardless of how far behind or how far ahead students came in academically, she pushed each student to identify and develop their passions outside the classroom, thus teaching us the importance of being well rounded.
At the end of the day, each person deserves someone who will fight for them. As Ms. B did for me, let’s choose to empower, equip and engage our next generation for a better tomorrow.