The Dewey Awards are all about honoring the teachers who make a difference in our lives. Every year, charter leaders, students, and parents across the country enter their written and video submissions celebrating exceptional teachers. Named for Mr. Richard Dewey, a teacher who made a difference in the life of CSC’s founder, three entries are awarded a grant of $1000 to a charter school of their choice. Although we only select three winners, each of the entries is inspiring and worth sharing; this week we bring you a moving written entry submitted by April Holthaus celebrating her teacher, Mrs. Kehr.
“My eight year old recently shared a story with me about how powerful words can be. From a video he watched he said, the teacher took out a piece of paper and told his student to throw insults at it. Words such as, “”You’re not good enough. “”You’re ugly.”” Etc. The teacher then proceeded to crumple up the piece of paper and then asked the students to apologize to it. They did as requested, then he opened the paper back up and asked if the paper looked the same. They shook their head because what once was a flat, pristine sheet of useable paper as now bent and wrinkled.
Growing up, my parents divorced when I was young, and we moved…a lot. From third grade to high school, I had gone to nine different schools and I was always the new girl. The girl who would show up in the middle of the school year. The girl who wasn’t a part of some already established friend group. The girl who got teased because of the clothes I wore or the way I had my hair. The quiet girl. The lonely girl. The girl without a friend.
Bouncing from school to school, made it difficult not only to make friends, but retain any of the material being taught. I did horrible in math. Horrible in reading. And overall, I had no enjoyment in learning. In truth, I even failed fifth grade, but due to moving from school district to district so many times, it was never caught and I was enrolled into sixth grade without having to repeat fifth all over again. That is when I made a decision to move out of my dad’s and in with my aunt who had a stable home so that I could go to the same school for middle school and high school. A decision I thought made sense but made it all the more difficult.
My extended family often ridiculed me. Telling me that I wouldn’t amount to much. That I’d most likely never graduate and wind up a teenage pregnant statistic. That I’d never go to college because we were too poor and I wasn’t smart enough. I was still the quiet girl in high school, but I used my creative writing class with an amazing teacher, Mrs. Kehr, as an outlet. In the class, we were able to write our own stories and journal entries so I wrote about my life and difficulties. Mrs. Kehr was very moved by my stories and thought I had put into them. She believed in me and told me that I was a writer. I told her that I’d never get into college because of money and that my grades were bad, and she took me under her wing. She helped me find scholarships, small amounts, but ones I qualified for and in which I had become a recipient for three of them in total. She even signed me up to tour colleges. And I knew that my goal and focus was to prove everyone wrong. My family. Old friends. Old classmates. I was going to prove to them that I was going to be somebody someday.
I look at my life now and those in my past, and I have proven to them and myself that I could go far. I now have a great career. I have self-published twelve books with many more to come. And now I have a family of my own. I think Mrs. Kehr would be proud of the person I have become. While I had no one on my side for support, she dared me to dream. But without the love, motivation and support she had shown me and taken real interest in me, I may have ended up just being that crumpled up piece of paper.”