"When you teach kindness, love and empathy, there is no room for hate."
On December 14, 2012, teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis's elementary school, Sandy Hook, endured one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history. Kaitlin's quick thinking at Sandy Hook saved 15 lives when, after hearing gunshots, she hurried her class of first-graders into a tiny bathroom keeping them safe until the police arrived. Kaitlin told me she never thought any of them would get out alive.
A year later, out of unthinkable tragedy, inspired by the kindness of others and in support of her first-graders, Kaitlin founded Classes 4 Classes an organization who's mission is to trump the hate that inspires such violence. Classes 4 Classes actively engages students and teachers in learning a social curriculum that encourages the development of students' emotional intellect, a key to forming healthy relationships. Kaitlin would like to see every student learn about compassion, caring, kindness, empathy and consideration -- lessons she believes should be included in all children's education.
I reached out to Kaitlin after meeting her at an event in New York and asked her if there was a teacher she worked with that supported Classes 4 Classes she would like to nominate for a GLAM4GOOD experience. GLAM4GOOD is my organization that harnesses the positive aspects of fashion and beauty to celebrate courage, perseverance and greatness. GLAM4GOOD is more than just a makeover -- often it's about honoring and acknowledging everyday heroism, bravery and compassion with fashion. Without missing a beat Kaitlin said, "I nominate Kristi MacCann because I am in awe of Kristi's selflessness, her devotion to her family, her ability to only see the positive and to not focus on the negative. This is why I can't think of anyone more deserving of being honored by Glam4Good. I have never seen a side of her that wasn't good."
"Kristi McCann is the kind of teacher that every school needs." says Marlene Roberts the Principal of Geraldine W. Johnson School, the elementary school in Bridgeport, Connecticut where Kristi teaches. "She is sweet, caring and understanding of especially challenging students. Her students adore her and even after they move on to the next grade if they have a rough time in school or their personal lives they know they can go back to seek her encouragement, attention and guidance."
Kristi McCann, like Kaitlin, turned great personal tragedy in her own life into a learning experience to help others after her brother was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Kristi donated her bone marrow to her brother and with the support of her Principal and school, shared that journey with her class. Kristi wanted her students to feel that they could share things with her too. "I thought to myself that this would be a great opportunity to show my class how life isn't always perfect and how sometimes sharing your experiences with others can be helpful." she said. "I could've kept it to myself, but I took a chance and the end result was life changing. They were my rock."
Soon after, Kristi started implementing caring and compassion lessons in her class to help teach ways of dealing with difficult situations in a positive way. "Classes 4 Classes curriculum helps teach my kids to find new ways of showing care towards others and themselves. My kids can learn social skills and different ways of turning potentially negative situations into positive ones." Kristi believes strongly that these skills cannot be overlooked, "We must teach kids to be kind and compassionate learners through different daily activities. Sometimes when we are having a challenging days, the kids will say, "Mrs. McCann I think we need to do a Classes 4 Classes lesson." she says. As the school year went on and Kristi continued to teach these lessons on compassion she noticed her class began thinking on their feet about their choices and constantly saying kind things to each other. "It's been inspiring to watch the progression these kids have made."
With the incredible support of Geraldine W. Johnson School's Principal Marlene Roberts and fellow teacher Emily Cicale, Kaitlin and I were able to surprise Kristi and her entire class. As Emily covered teaching Kristi's class, we led the very excited Kristi into a makeover room we set up in the school. My GLAM4GOOD team focused on giving Kristi the pampering she deserves; A beautiful hair cut and style from Suave Professionals, makeup tips and application from Nicole Bryl and a stunning new work wardrobe thanks to Tommy Hilfiger. As Kristi was being pampered and the class was at recess, we set up a class party to surprise everyone! When the kids and Kristi walked back into class not only was their a surprise party set up with decorations, food and goody bags, but thanks to Tommy Hilfiger, warm winter coats, scarves, gloves and hats to honor the kids who have all been so supportive of their teacher. Everyone had a GLAM4GOOD experience. Watch the heart warming video and check out the pictures in the album to see our incredible day together.
I asked Kristi what she wanted her legacy as a teacher to be. "You must have love, trust, compassion, and kindness...and then you can teach anything," she tells me. "My favorite teachers were this way and as an educator now, I understand why they were so successful when educating me."
Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis and I dedicate this video and post to the memory of Kristi's incredible bother, Roger Migne, who recently passed away.
1. KINDNESS BREEDS KINDNESS: Life is full of choices. No matter who you are, if you choose to focus on love, kindness, empathy, and compassion, then you need to make a point to embody these things in all you do and if you're a teacher, to teach theses lessons to your students. .
2. WE DO NOT STAND ALONE: In life we are all connected. We must actively experience giving to others, to show ourselves and our students the impact of helping someone else. It ultimately can change our social climate.
3. KINDNESS MATTERS: At Classes 4 Classes we recommend the following: 'Keep a "caught being kind" jar and fill it throughout the week with things you observe. At the end of each week choose a few to TRY YOURSELF post.' ( Imagine, if we each lived every day to record the ways we were kind to others-)
4. PAIN AND HARDSHIP ARE UNIVERSAL: The answer lies in how you choose to react. It is your choice alone. You can choose to react with anger, resentment and hate, or, you can choose to react with love, empathy and compassion.
5. WE ARE DIFFERENT AND THE SAME: When it comes down to it, teaching students/individuals a social curriculum, is making sure that they are socially aware. Aware of what makes us different, and of what unites us as one, and being accepting of both.
6. WE HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGE: We teach that change happens not by talking about kindness and empathy but by living it. This encourages the development of emotional intellect, which is key to forming healthy relationships. We must work to create the change in our society.