Photo Courtesy of the Daily Nebraskan
I am convinced that I have had the incredible privilege to learn from the most amazing, selfless, challenging and inspirational teacher...ever. In fact, I am so convinced of this fact that my friends, family and (probably) entire Facebook news feed are also all aware thanks to the countless articles I share and opportunities in my life that all link back to this outstanding educator.
Kelly Meyer, currently at the University of Georgia, was my professor during my sophomore year of college. She was teaching a Literacy and Communities class, an undergraduate course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Kelly taught at UNL while pursuing her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric, moving to Georgia in early 2015.
Not only was I able to learn from Kelly as a student in the Literacy and Communities course , but was also able to work alongside Kelly as a volunteer for the Writing Lincoln Initiative, a program that she co-founded alongside other graduate English students.
This program reaches various communities in the Lincoln area as a " group of graduate, undergraduate, and community volunteers who partner with writers of all ages and backgrounds to provide a friendly and supportive space for writing. We seek to meet writers where they are and help them get where they want to go, making writing easier and more enjoyable" (Writing Lincoln Website).
Through my participation in this program I was able to observe, learn and grow from interactions with the students we worked with at a local community center and learned ways to be an effective, caring and transformational volunteer and teacher from Kelly. As opportunities lead Kelly to Georgia, I stayed at the community center and relied upon all that she taught me in order to give my second and third grade Writing Club all of the energy, positivity and love they deserved.
I am graduating this semester with a bachelor's degree in English and Communication Studies am currently pursuing a career as a secondary English teacher, all because of Kelly's influence in my life and the lives of all she positively touched.
To be completely specific, I find Kelly to be an amazing educator simply because she constantly challenged my viewpoints and understanding of what literacy, and more broadly, education means.
Before Kelly's class, I was completely unaware of the (unearned) privilege I have and am actively seeking out ways to champion for those whose experiences aren't privileged in this way. Kelly taught me so many things. Whether she even meant to or not, she was not afraid to talk about the concepts that most of my previous teachers avoided for fear of offending. Kelly constantly asked our class to decenter our perspectives and viewpoints in order to make room for the experiences that we have never had... constantly asking us to place ourselves in the shoes of others.
Kelly taught us what literacy means beyond simply reading and writing. I now believe there are so many different types of literacy, all of which are unique and important to success in a variety of atmospheres.
Kelly taught me how to fight for social justice. Kelly taught me how to be an ally.
Kelly is an amazing educator because when I think of the education I have received and the experiences I have had, I am extremely humbled.
Kelly is the type of educator who inspires and places passion in the hearts of her students; the type of educator who calls attention to the aspects of society most people would like to pretend do not exist; the type of educator who cares passionately and deeply for her students and their success; the type of educator who, two years later, still writes letters of recommendation and answers the phone for an hour-long conversation when I feel conflicted about a decision; who tells her students what she truly believes, even if it isn't exactly what they want to hear. Kelly is the type of educator who changes the world, student by student.
Just yesterday I was moved and motivated by a series of articles Kelly posted to her Facebook page, reminding all of us how important it is to fight for change and to give voices to the experiences of others. I am looking forward to the various books she has recommended I read in order to inspire others the way she has inspired me.
My life is forever different because of Kelly. I am thankful each and every day that she was my teacher during such a transformational and impressionable time in my life. I am inspired by her courage and dedication to transforming students, families and communities. I cannot wait to embark on my own journey and can thank Kelly for the passion, courage, and determination to do so.
Thank you, Kelly.
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This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Gratitude, entitled 'The One Thing I'm Most Thankful For.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to email@example.com.