2018 KCPS Teacher of the Year Finalist

Central Middle School Math Teacher Arjun Ravindran

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Arjun Ravindran
Central Middle School
Math/Algebra I Teacher 

What motivated your career in education?
Put simply, the factor which most influenced me to become a teacher were the teachers that I had growing up. I was a fairly average student but my teachers made me feel that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. They were at once my coach, my cheering section and my teammate. Their faith in me was the seed from which my self-esteem developed. When I finished college, I was admittedly a bit lost as to what to do professionally, but I knew I wanted to do something big. I thought about those who had been most impactful in my life. As I reflected, I realized that I would not have been successful without the influence of my dedicated and committed teachers. I joined Teach For America, hopeful that I could be to my students what my teachers were to me.

I believe teaching is one of the most important callings a person can have because transformative teachers empower their students to succeed. Shining a light on the successes of my students is something I set out to do every day. Positive reinforcement is not only an important educational motivator. It also provides young people with a foundation of pride and self-worth, which they carry far beyond the walls of the classroom. My goal is to empower my students, enabling them to be a force for change in the community and the world.

What message about public education do you want to share?
There are plenty of challenges that my kids face in their daily lives from food instability, to chaotic family situations and threats of homelessness. One thing we should be able to provide for our students is a basic measure of safety. Unfortunately, in these trying times even that is not a given. In light of the most recent school shooting in my home state of Florida, this issue has even more immediacy.

Whatever problems they face, whatever their background, children should always feel safe in school. Following the Parkland shooting, I had a debrief with my students at our National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) meeting. While they expressed fear and frustration, they certainly did not feel impotent. Many have been inspired by their fellow students on social media and in the national headlines. They wanted to extend their help to this important and pressing cause. With my guidance, the officers of the NJHS designed a letter writing campaign to local legislators on which we are currently embarking. It is truly heartening and inspiring to see my students rise above their fear and stand up for themselves and their classmates when so many adults refuse to take such action.

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