Each year, KCPS celebrates its many great teachers, recognizing the top teachers at each of its schools. No one person has a greater impact on the education of a child than a teacher, who creates a supporting and nurturing learning environment where children can flourish and grow. This series celebrates excellence in the teaching profession in KCPS.

Ashley Edwards
Northeast Middle School
Eighth Grade English Language Arts

What factors influenced your decision to become a teacher? Identify what you consider to be your greatest contributions to and accomplishments in education. 
I first knew I wanted to become a teacher when I was in seventh grade. I suffered the loss of my closest uncle and began to shut down. In class, I remember my teacher consoling me and giving me such encouraging words to keep going. It was at that moment that I knew I had to be that peace for someone else. I also noticed the lack of teachers of color in the schools that I belonged to and knew I wanted to be a face for students who needed to see someone who looked like them in front of the classroom. I consider one of my most significant contributions to education to be my ability to connect with students on a personal level and give them hope. I encourage and lift my students even when they try so hard to give up. One of my greatest accomplishments will always be when my students return to my classroom years after leaving school. They let me know how successful they have become. With so much going on in our students’ personal lives, they not only need a teacher; they need someone who won’t give up.

Describe a project or initiative that you have led or been involved with that contributed to increasing equity in education and opportunity for students in your school.
In 2017 and 2018, I started a poetry slam to bring students together from all walks of life. Since we have students at Northeast that come from all over the world, I gave students the option to write in their native language or English. I also encouraged them to choose a theme that centered around justice and equality. Some students spoke about their personal experiences moving from one part of the world to the next, and others about being mistreated because of the way they looked. All students who participated were not afraid to be very personal and share with a small intimate group their life experiences. This experience was both emotional and eye-opening for me as an educator. It showed me how often we do not have the chance to listen to the struggles our students face. Because of this activity, many students gained new friendships, and we also began to foster a safer class environment because people understood each other on a deeper level. It is my goal to make this a school-wide initiative.