Closing the Education Gap by Helping Kids Love Learning
By Kay Comeaux
As I’ve advanced through life, and seen my child, my grandchild, and my students advance in theirs, I have realized just how much of an impact my own education had, and continues to have, on me. It’s this knowledge—of the power of a great education—that sparked my passion and motivated me to work in schools. I know from personal experience that every child, no matter what they may face outside of school, is capable of excellence. That’s why I fight now for educational equity, so that all students have the people and supports in place to set them on a journey to success.
And it’s why I share my story now: to remind educators who are in a position to influence young minds that we hold tremendous power. By instilling a love for learning, teachers can provide children with the skills and tools they need to navigate this journey of life.
OVERCOMING LOSS THROUGH BOOKS
From a young age, I have been an learner. Like many, my parents were my first teachers, and from them, I learned to make sounds, talk, crawl, then walk and run. But at the age of six, just as I was transitioning into school to take the next step in my learning path, I lost one of my very first teachers.
My dad, his mom and twin sister, and my teachers—Mrs. Johnson, Ms. West, and Mr. Jones—became my inspiration after the loss of my mom. They motivated me to press forward, not lose focus, stay encouraged, and work harder towards my education. In fact, with the help of my teachers, education became my escape. I discovered a love for geography and literature. In books, I escaped my reality and explored fun in far-away places.
To this day, I am still a lifelong learner. I am also now a reserve teacher. After my insatiable love for books and school got me through the hardest time in my life, I dedicated my life to teaching. As an educator, I hope to spark in my students the very same love for education that my family, Mrs. Johnson, Ms. West, and Mr. Jones—and now Dr. Bongila and Dr. Wharton-Beck—sparked in me.
HELPING ALL STUDENTS ENJOY & THRIVE IN THEIR EDUCATION
A quick look at any data shows us that too many students in Minnesota are not getting the supports they need to love, and succeed in, school. On every measure, from math proficiency to high school graduation rates, Minnesota schools are producing disparate and unacceptable results for historically underserved students.
For example, when it comes to reading—a skill that my teachers helped me master—just 33 percent of Minnesota’s black third-graders achieve or exceed proficiency. The numbers are similar for Latino children, Native students, and students with disabilities.
If we’re not equipping all children with the fundamental skills and knowledge they need to become real learners, we are failing them. If children can’t read, they can’t get lost in books. They can’t discover their passions. They can’t work harder towards their education.
I think back to my own childhood, and how different things might have been if I didn’t have a solid foundation in reading when my mother passed. If I couldn’t escape my reality through books, where would I be now?
OUR POWER & RESPONSIBILITY
As adults—and especially adults who work in schools, and interact with countless young people every single day—we have a tremendous opportunity to foster a love for learning among youth. To encourage them to read beyond what is assigned, to expand their horizons, and to find the subjects that are fun, at least to them, in the way that literature and geography spoke to me. And, of course, to do this, we also have a responsibility to equip all children with the building blocks of education so that they can learn and explore on their own.
We have a chance to be Mrs. Johnson, Ms. West, and Mr. Jones every single day. Let’s not miss it.
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