This summer I was privileged to support East Kentwood math teacher Dave Emeott, as he was recognized as one of four finalists for the Michigan Teacher of the Year award. While recognized for innovative teaching practices, Dave modeled our district values in what he said before the ceremony.
"I'm probably not even the best teacher in Kentwood, but if winning this award brings recognition to my colleagues and lets people know about the great things going on in Kentwood, then it will be worth all of the work."
In one brief statement, Dave captured our commitment to excellence and our emphasis on positive relationships. I am fortunate to work with staff members whose focus is on creating strong relationships with students and colleagues, rather than seeking a personal spotlight. Strong relationships support students like Crossroads' Morgan Scott. You may recall the Grand Rapids Press article "Homeless and in high school: Kentwood teen's story illustrates growing problem among Michigan students", detailing Morgan's triumph over homelessness. Despite these obstacles, she was elected as the co-chair of the state-wide Alternative Education student organization. Morgan was both inspired and empowered by the staff at Crossroads to be her own advocate.
While Morgan's challenge was overcoming homelessness, hundreds of our students could tell similar stories having come from war torn countries and having experienced the pain of lost family members. The mission for Kentwood educators and our community is clear. Together, we are the safety net that Morgan describes. We are the support system for students needing help on their path to success. It truly does take a village!
As we go into the 2012-13 school year, let's focus on three attributes of Kentwood Public Schools:
1. A 21st century global community where relationships matter. In this century, being competitive means having an ability to work with individuals from around the globe with multiple cultures and languages. Kentwood students have a competitive edge because they can experience and observe healthy relationships with staff members and students from around the world! We must continue to capitalize on this opportunity!
2. Leading through innovation and creative problem-solving: Exciting things are happening in Kentwood classrooms. Technological changes offer opportunities for teachers to be innovative in new ways and for students to engage in new problem-solving approaches. We promise to let you know when our students engage in creative learning activities. These are stories that need to be told.
3. Committed to excellence: In everything we do, and at every level of the district, our commitment to excellence must be data driven, customer focused and centered on continuous improvement.
We will continue to emphasize these qualities throughout the year with our students, our parents, with our collaborative teams and within our community. We have great stories to tell. Let's not be afraid to share them!
Finally, thank you for being a valuable part of our Kentwood School community. Whether you volunteer, attend our many events, or enjoy our wonderful facilities, your support helps create a culture that builds community and establishes a life-giving support system for students facing difficult and often dark circumstances. In the year ahead, let's continue to take on difficult challenges, inspire innovation, creativity, and learning, while affirming students, staff and fellow community members for the hard work being done.