Teacher of the Week: Kim Summers, English, Urbana High School

Apr. 4—Kim Summers' time in teaching began after moving to Champaign-Urbana from New Mexico, where she graduated from high school and college and began her career in food service management.

I find my work important because I am fortunate to come to school every day, where I get to learn with, learn from and teach the most amazing kids in our area. My kids are willing to share their diverse lives and experiences with me and their peers, so we are able to see our lives, the world and the texts we read from multiple perspectives.

The two most important things a person can do is share their stories and listen to the stories others are willing to share. An English classroom is the perfect place for young people to practice these skills, which they will carry on into their futures.

I became a teacher because As I was working toward my master's of arts in sociology at New Mexico State University, I conducted research focusing on programs and personal assistance schools needed to offer students who were at a higher risk of dropping out in order to help them successfully meet graduation requirements. After I completed my master's degree, my family moved to Champaign. I began volunteering on a regular basis in my son's third-grade classroom, and I saw firsthand how the U.S. school system can raise some students up but keep others down. Kids who were facing discrimination by the education system needed more people on the inside advocating for them, and I wanted to be one of those people.

I enrolled in the master's of education in curriculum and instruction plus teaching certification program at UIUC, and I began teaching in my own classroom at Urbana High School two years later.

The main reason I became a teacher is so that I could give kids a platform to use their voices and to share their stories. Kids have powerful voices when adults stop long enough to listen, and I wanted to ensure that my kids were not afraid to make their voices heard. My only goal as a teacher is to give every student I meet the chance to show their passion and intelligence by helping them figure out ways to navigate the barriers that life and the school system put in their way.

My favorite or most unique lesson that I teach is My favorite lessons are the ones that give my kids time to slow down so they can have a moment to connect with a person or character in a text. It is important that my kids have the opportunity to see a situation through the perspective of another person or character. As Atticus Finch told Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird," "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

My most fulfilling moments on the job are when The most fulfilling moment for me is when a kid has an "a-ha" moment, and they cannot control their excitement. Seeing them put all of the pieces together and come to a deeper understanding is the most rewarding part of my day.

I also mostly teach underclassmen, so I love watching my former kids walk the stage as they receive their diplomas.

I keep students engaged by I have found that the more passionate I am about a topic or text, the more engaged my students are. I am also a storyteller, and I have been known to stop mid-lesson to share a seemingly random story to grab their attention again. Many of these stories contain life lessons or real-world connections to themes or issues we're discussing. Kids often tell me the most important lessons they learned came from my "random" stories and not the actual curriculum.

Something else I'm passionate about is Outside of learning with my kids, I am also passionate about mentoring and working with new teachers and helping them navigate their teaching journey. I had the most patient and supportive mentor when I started teaching (shout out to Julie Erlinger!), and I would not have been able to successfully survive my first few years without her wisdom and guidance. I try every day to be this kind of mentor for our new teachers.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was My favorite teacher was my English teacher, Ms. Bannister (Ms. B) at Cloudcroft High School in New Mexico. She was extremely strict, and we were all afraid to be in her class, but she immediately won my respect due to her high expectations and unwavering sense of fairness. I already loved reading and writing poetry, but Ms. B helped me fall in love with the mechanics of writing. I still remember the freedom I felt when she gave me permission to break all the rules she had taught me so I could become a stronger writer. I now love giving this same "permission" to my kids!

If I weren't a teacher, I would be If I weren't a teacher, I would be a sociologist. I love working with and learning from other people, especially studying how groups come together to make society function more effectively.