By Louisiana Fellow Ellyn McKinney
The 25 years spent in a profession I absolutely love has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on this work many times. However, most recently, the impact of a simple word, why caused me to deeply explore how a teacher’s contribution to the world of education can truly make a difference in the life of a child. Such is the case of a student whose life was forever changed by the actions of teachers who cared and set my course to be bold, ask why more often and create a venue for possibilities.
Sidney was 17 years old, a struggling 11th grader who was beyond disenchanted with school. He was capable but his grades were marginal - bringing to life the reality that grades and test scores should not define a child. Driven by a climate and culture in the academic world that the outcome of high school is a bridge to college, the school building was his dread. Sidney’s genius was found in his love for people, keen communication skills, and love for outdoors coupled with his interest in mechanics. His teachers recognized these qualities and began to search a better way for him to find success. . . and they did.
Hours of conversations, meetings and thoughtful investigation opened doors that provided a new learning venue through mentorships, internships and finally an entrepreneurship to build his own successful business. The message was strong in that school did not have to operate between the hours of 8-3, 5 days a week, 9 months a year - between the months of August and May. The classroom was found in industry learning labs through project based instruction.
Today, Sidney is a licensed HVAC Technician. He's happy, successful and loves his work.
I have such admiration for him. Our roles reversed as he taught me more about education than any textbook or college course. Sidney taught me to look beyond the four walls of a classroom to teach math, economics, English and citizenship. He taught me to be more intentional in my approach to plan with students and parents. He taught me to be a better teacher - and even more to be a better parent.
You see, Sidney is more than a student who taught me to speak up and to sometimes scream from the top of my lungs,to always find a way. Sidney is more than a student. He is my child - and for this reason, I will spend every day of my professional journey being intentional, looking for a better way and never, ever placing students into a mold that someone else set for them.
He taught me to believe and that we have the power to know that opportunity is Now Here!