Guest blog post by Kayla Jennings-Rivera, Corporate Communications intern.
I always enjoyed school. I loved making connections with my teachers and feeling proud of my schoolwork. As I got older, I realized how much of an impact my teachers have made in my development.
I've been learning a lot about the importance of education during my time here at Scholastic and have been reflecting on my time as a student and some of the moments that stand out to me as impactful moments on my personal growth. While I have had the privilege of having great educators who taught me so much, perhaps the most impactful lessons I’ve learned weren’t part of the curriculum.
The header photo, for example, is Mrs. Goldstein and me on the last day of my senior year. She is a history teacher and the Student Congress advisor. She empowered me as a student leader. We are now Facebook friends and keep in touch!
Random act of kindness
When I was in first grade, I was overjoyed when the Scholastic Book Fair was taking place at my school. My mom gave me money, but when I got to the book fair, I didn’t have enough money for the Junie B. Jones diary book that I wanted. I told my teacher I didn’t feel well and asked to go to the nurse. When I was there, I called my mom crying about the book. A few minutes later, the school nurse gave me the difference in money to buy it! I hadn’t had many experiences with her prior, so I was really struck by her generosity. I was overjoyed to purchase the diary book and I believe it is in my family’s attic still.
Practice what you preach
I had a student-teacher during third grade who I admired greatly. During read-aloud time one day, she was asked by another student if she smoked. I remember her closing the book thoughtfully and expressing to us that she would never do something that she taught us not to do. I appreciated her sincerity and authenticity.
Rapping lessons of kindness
My fifth grade teacher incorporated kindness into our everyday curriculum. We ended the day with the “Essential 55” rap. Just imagine a full room of 10- and 11-year-olds jamming out to a rap all about holding the door for others and not cutting in line. That rap brought the class together and taught us manners that were important to our growth. I remember more about my personal development this year than any academic achievements.
Identity and bullying
My seventh grade English teacher taught a lesson about identity and bullying by using visuals to teach us the explanation of the proverb "those who live in glass houses should not throw stones." She normally wore bright colors and professional attire but on this day she put pink extensions in her hair, wore heavy makeup, and all-black clothes. She threw rocks into a glass bowl and explained that the rocks could break the bowl. She said even if she glued it back together, it would never be the same. She compared this to how we judge and treat others. She said bullying creates cracks in us and will damage people forever. This lesson has stayed with me over the years.
While performing my high school musical at local elementary schools, I was always so impressed when my former teachers approached me. I couldn’t believe they remembered me and could recognize me in costume. They were always so excited to see me and wanted to catch up with me and see what I was up to. I was excited to share with them what I was up to, especially my last year I could share that I was going to college. To receive their support still, years later, made me proud of myself and grateful for them because they played a part in my journey.
Impacting the next generation
I took AP English my senior year, and I knew it would be in my benefit to talk more with the teacher. She was loved by everyone in her class and other teachers talked highly of her. I wanted to work hard and prove myself in her class before I tried to get to know her. Slowly but surely, I was able to connect with her, and one day I spend my entire lunch period talking to her about college. I stressed how badly I wanted to attend NYU and weeks away from sending my application. She was incredibly insightful and offered real advice. She ended up writing one of my recommendations for NYU. My sister just graduated from the same high school I attended and I made sure she took AP English as well.
It's impossible to ignore how much of an impact a teacher has on someone's life, whether that be as a young child or someone still growing up. There aren't words to summarize how important these moments, big and small, have impacted my life and years later I still remember them in great detail.