Inspirational Educator: Kennetha Hopkins – I Want to Help My Students be the BEST Version of Themselves

How long have you been teaching?

Seven years now!

Why did you choose to teach as a career?

I have always said I was born to be a teacher. Even before Kindergarten, I was teaching my stuffed animals and dolls! We had to keep a journal in First grade, and I wrote down that when I grew up, I would live in a log cabin and be a teacher. I don’t live in a log cabin, but I am teaching!

Many people question if our current education system is working. What do you think?

For some students, our current system works fine. However, in light of the fact that we teach a vast variety of people with different abilities and talents, that system doesn’t work for everyone. We as a profession need to use our powers of innovation and teamwork to figure out how to provide the best possible education to every single student in our country in a way that lets them be their best.  

What would you like to see being taught in our classrooms?

I want to see students being exposed to technology in as many ways as possible, and being provided with opportunities to fail in safe environments. I would love to see all schools, elementary to high school, teaching soft skills like public speaking, interpersonal skills, poise, and decision making. We have gotten very efficient at producing students who can ace a test by working the testing system, but we need to be producing students who can interact with people, apply their learning in real situations, and discuss their opinions and ideas in calm and uplifting ways.

Describe the changes you’ve seen in students and the teaching profession?

I haven’t been teaching for a decade yet, but I have seen my peers begin to grow in different ways since teacher-led professional development has been introduced and encouraged across the country. Even when I started my career seven years ago, professional development was only done by companies, administrators, or specialists. I love that we are becoming empowered in our own specialties!

Share your proudest teacher moment.

My proudest moment will sound very insignificant, but it is more a representation of a year of small proud moments. This past year, I decided I wanted to help my students be the best version of themselves possible and to cultivate a class of leaders who were respectful, insightful, confident, and personable, on top of being academically proficient. My moment came at the end of the year when we took the fifth graders to visit their middle school they would be attending. The entire time someone was talking to them, 99% of my students were listening attentively and nodding along. When the time for questions came, they were poised and well-spoken and thanked adults for answers. I heard many, many thank yous from my kids to middle school representatives for their time and effort. That one visit showed me that all my hard work teaching them to real-life skills wasn’t in vain. Now I teach at that same middle school and see my former fifth graders, and the confidence we built in them together last year is still there! It is so rewarding to see them be successful young adults.

What is the most important message about teaching that you would like People to know?

Teaching is not an 8:00-3:00 career where we come in, work and go home unchanged. Those of us who are runners and high-achievers probably only use three, maybe four weeks of our summer vacation. Teaching, in my opinion, is the most prestigious career because all other careers come from our job—we teach the future every day!

How can parents and Educators work together to better to ensure children are successful?

I am a huge proponent of teamwork between home and school and seek to establish a connection to my families as soon as possible. Both sides of that equation must enter the relationship trusting that each other has the best intentions for the most important thing—that student and their education. That relationship takes a healthy, consistent flow of communication and a sense of partnership.

What is the most important educational gift parents can provide for their children to help them be successful learners?

Even though I may not be a reading teacher, I am an avid reader! I encourage all parents to read at least one book a day to their babies from birth until they are at least in school. This early exposure to books is a great foundation for them before they ever enter a classroom. Other than that, a love of learning and growing is the best seed that a parent could ever plant and nurture in their children!

Who is most Inspirational Teacher you’ve had? Why?

My most influential teacher is an incredible man named Coach Charles Wells. He was my eighth-grade social studies teacher and a Vietnam veteran. Before having him, I was extremely shy and wanted nothing to do with speaking out in class, even though I was a great student. He was loud, blunt, and called me the wrong name on purpose the first day of class. I came to love him dearly. He found I wrote stories and poetry and was upset that I hadn’t shared them with anyone. He told him, in his blunt and caring way, that my voice needed to be heard, that my opinions and ideas were important, and that I had greatness in me that needed to be let out. At our eighth grade graduation, I stood in front of my entire class and our friends and families and read an original poem. I still credit Coach Wells with my love of public speaking and presenting to groups of people. He is one of the reasons I became a teacher and always strive to seek out my quiet students and empower them to be themselves.

How many hours a week do you spend completing all of your duties related to your job. Are there any extra duties that people may find surprising or not consider that you have to complete?

I recently switched to teaching a different grade at a different school in different subjects, so my answer is very skewed right now! Between lesson planning, grading work, writing tests or designing assignments, and creating engaging activities, I spend approximately 50-60 hours a week completing duties for school. I am a high flyer/runner kind of teacher, so I know I do quite a bit more than what is required, but I do it because my kids deserve my best.

What do you think is a fair salary for teachers? Keep in mind the argument that celebrities make millions and teachers are always struggling?

I honestly do not feel that I could accurately put a number on a fair salary because I am just a classroom teacher starting her seventh year of teaching. I can speak, however, to the amount of work and the huge numbers of hats that teachers have to wear in addition to just giving instruction. Those two ideas, on top of the fact that all other careers are birthed through teaching and teachers, should give cause for teachers to make more than we do right now.

Have you ever paid for supplies for your classroom?

I have paid for supplies every year, multiple times a year. I wish I didn’t have to, but I do it happily to be able to give my students the best opportunity to learn.

If you had a wish list of needs for your classroom what would the top three things be?

  • An Instax mini camera for students to document the classroom and display pictures outside the room
  • A new set of dry erase boards with erasers
  • New seating!

If you would like people to help this Inspirational Educator fill her wishlist, please email her at kennetha.hopkins@gmail.com

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